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University of Iowa News Release


NOTE TO MEDIA: This news release was updated since this morning’s version to include additional poll results and context. Updates are noted in bold.

Oct. 23, 2008

Obama leads in Big Ten Battleground Poll

As the race for the White House enters its final days, the Big Ten Battleground Poll shows Barack Obama holding double-digit leads over John McCain in eight crucial Midwest states.

The individual surveys of between 562 and 586 randomly selected registered voters and those likely to register to vote before the election in each of the states were conducted by phone with live interviewers from Oct. 19-22 and were co-directed by University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientists Charles Franklin and Ken Goldstein with the cooperation of colleagues from participating Big Ten universities. The polls each have a margin of error of 4.2 percentage points. The states included in the poll were Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota, home to the 11 universities in the Big Ten conference.

Those states were key battlegrounds in the 2004 election, and last month the Big Ten Battleground Poll showed a tight race in all of those states but Illinois, which Obama represents in the U.S. Senate.

The first poll was taken two days before Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced the need for a massive bailout of Wall Street -- when McCain was enjoying his highest poll numbers of the campaign in the Big Ten and nationally. The October survey was taken after the financial crisis worsened and following debates between the presidential and vice presidential candidates.

"In September, we saw virtually the entire Big Ten as a battleground," said Franklin, co-developer of "Now Obama is clearly winning the Big Ten battleground. The dominance of the economy as a top issue for voters is the overwhelming story."

The new Big Ten poll shows Obama ahead in every Big Ten state, including Indiana, where McCain held a slight edge in September and a Democrat has not won since 1964. Obama also leads in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where last month's poll results showed the two candidates in a dead heat.

"McCain was gaining until the financial crisis hit," Franklin said. "Once the crisis hit, support moved from McCain to Obama."

Big Ten Battleground Poll head-to-head results for individual states:

Illinois - Obama 61 percent, McCain 32 percent N=572
Indiana - Obama 51 percent, McCain 41 percent N=586
Iowa - Obama 52 percent, McCain 39 percent N=586
Ohio - Obama 53 percent, McCain 41 percent N=564
Michigan - Obama 58 percent, McCain 36 percent N=562
Minnesota - Obama 57 percent, McCain 38 percent N=583
Pennsylvania - Obama 52 percent, McCain 41 percent, N=566
Wisconsin - Obama 53 percent, McCain 40 percent N=584

The poll also included a nationally representative sample of 1,014 respondents, with a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points. That survey shows Obama with a 9-point margin over McCain, 52 percent to 43 percent.

"With the fundamental factors so to their advantage, this election was always about Barack Obama and the Democrats reaching a threshold level of credibility with voters," Goldstein said. "It appears Obama has and this race has popped nationally and here in the Big Ten."

Sixty percent of voters in the national survey think Obama is better able to bring about change, while 28 percent hold that view about McCain; 7 in 10 said McCain was more experienced.

The voters' views of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin have dimmed in the month since the first Big Ten poll. In September, half of voters in the national poll held a favorable view of the Alaska governor and 37 percent viewed her unfavorably. In the new poll, 44 percent of voters hold a favorable view of Palin and 48 percent have an unfavorable view.

The national survey also shows deep voter dissatisfaction with the current administration and the federal government. Two-thirds of voters hold an unfavorable view of President George W. Bush and just 20 percent said they trust the federal government to do what is right all or most of the time. More than 8 in 10 voters said the country is on the wrong track.

In the national survey, 63 percent of voters named the economy and jobs as the most important problem facing the country today and 91 percent think the economy has gotten worse in the last year. Eleven percent of voters said their top issue was terrorism and national security; 7 percent named health care and just 5 percent said the Iraq War.

The sample of registered voters and those likely to register to vote before the 2008 Presidential election -- because several Big Ten states have same-day registration -- for the state and national surveys was selected by random-digit dialing of landline phones. Cell-only households were not included in the sample.

The results of this rare regional poll -- a partnership involving eight Big Ten universities -- will be featured a 90-minute show called Big Ten Battleground: Campaign 2008, which airs at 3 p.m. CDT (4 p.m. EDT) today (Oct. 23) on the Big Ten Network.

Universities participating in the partnership are the University of Illinois, the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Penn State University and UW-Madison.

For more details about the poll, its methodology, the show and a list of poll contacts at each of the participating universities, visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Charles Franklin, Battleground Poll, 608-263-2022, 608-235-1960,; Ken Goldstein, Battleground Poll, 608-263-2390,; Dennis Chaptman, University of Wisconsin communications office, 608-262-9406,; Nicole Riehl, University of Iowa News Services, 319-384-0070 (office), 319-430-6576 (cell),