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Monday, August 04, 2008

Obama Leads, Pessimism Reigns Among Key Group



By Michael D. Shear and Jon Cohen Washington Post Staff Writers

Democratic Sen. Barack Obama holds a 2 to 1 edge over Republican Sen. John McCain among the nation's low-wage workers, but many are unconvinced that either presidential candidate would be better than the other at fixing the ailing economy or improving the health-care system, according to a new national poll.


Obama's advantage is attributable largely to overwhelming support from two traditional Democratic constituencies: African Americans and Hispanics. But even among white workers -- a group of voters that has been targeted by both parties as a key to victory in November -- Obama leads McCain by 10 percentage points, 47 percent to 37 percent, and has the advantage as the more empathetic candidate.

Still, one in six of the white workers polled remains uncommitted to either candidate. And a majority of those polled, both white and minority, are ambivalent about the impact of the election, saying that no matter who wins, their personal finances are unlikely to change.

"It's not my main concern in life," said Mary Lee, 50, a factory worker in rural Kentucky. "I know how politics is. I really don't think it's going to matter either way."

More than disaffection drives these workers, according to the new national poll by the Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University.

Their politics are shaped partly by their lot in the current economy: These voters are among the most severely hurt by rising prices, and many are insecure about their finances and lack jobs with basic benefits. Nevertheless, many are optimistic about the future even as they express deep suspicion about government.

The new poll included interviews with 1,350 randomly selected workers 18 to 64 years old who put in at least 30 hours a week but earned $27,000 or less last year. As a group, they are somewhat less likely to be Republicans than all adults under age 65 and are also less likely to be registered to vote. As many call themselves conservatives as liberal, and nearly four in 10 said their views on most political matters are "moderate."

Obama's advantage is attributable largely to overwhelming support from two traditional Democratic constituencies: African Americans and Hispanics. But even among white workers -- a group of voters that has been targeted by both parties as a key to victory in November -- Obama leads McCain by 10 percentage points, 47 percent to 37 percent, and has the advantage as the more empathetic candidate.

Still, one in six of the white workers polled remains uncommitted to either candidate. And a majority of those polled, both white and minority, are ambivalent about the impact of the election, saying that no matter who wins, their personal finances are unlikely to change.

"It's not my main concern in life," said Mary Lee, 50, a factory worker in rural Kentucky. "I know how politics is. I really don't think it's going to matter either way."

More than disaffection drives these workers, according to the new national poll by the Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University.

Their politics are shaped partly by their lot in the current economy: These voters are among the most severely hurt by rising prices, and many are insecure about their finances and lack jobs with basic benefits. Nevertheless, many are optimistic about the future even as they express deep suspicion about government.

The new poll included interviews with 1,350 randomly selected workers 18 to 64 years old who put in at least 30 hours a week but earned $27,000 or less last year. As a group, they are somewhat less likely to be Republicans than all adults under age 65 and are also less likely to be registered to vote. As many call themselves conservatives as liberal, and nearly four in 10 said their views on most political matters are "moderate."

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