Wall Street Crisis May Give Obama Slight Political Benefit

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Even though public is divided over who would better handle the crisis

PRINCETON, NJ -- When asked how the Wall Street crisis might affect their presidential vote, slightly more registered voters say it increases their chances of voting for Barack Obama (29%) than say this about John McCain (23%), with roughly 4 in 10 saying it will have no impact on their decision.


This is based on a one-night Sept. 17 USA Today/Gallup poll measuring public reaction to the Wall Street crisis more generally, and the government bailout of AIG in particular.

In general, it appears that the crisis may just be reinforcing existing preferences. Most Obama voters say the crisis makes them more likely to vote for him, and about half of McCain voters say the Wall Street crisis increases their chances of supporting McCain.


However, there has been a definite shift toward Obama in Gallup Poll Daily tracking since Monday, when the crisis began to dominate the headlines. McCain, who had held an advantage ever since the Republican National Convention, now finds himself trailing Obama by 5 percentage points in the latest Gallup Poll Daily tracking update.

Despite the political advantage that may be accruing to Obama as a result of the Wall Street problems, Americans give neither candidate an edge when asked directly which would do a better job of handling the crisis.


The candidates have spent much of their time on the campaign trail this week discussing the financial crisis, which has in large part overshadowed the presidential election in the news. And while McCain in particular has struggled to reconcile his anti-regulation philosophy with the government's actions to bolster AIG, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, at least as of Wednesday night, the public did not give either candidate an edge in terms of his ability to deal with the issue.

This is the case even though Obama has more consistently supported increased government regulation of Wall Street, which 59% of Americans say they favor in the poll.

Americans' assessments of which candidate would better handle the issue are strongly aligned with their party affiliation, with Republicans overwhelmingly giving McCain the advantage, Democrats doing the same for Obama, and independents roughly equally divided between the two.


Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,056 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Sept. 17, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 959 registered voters, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.

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