Economic fears widen Obama's lead in Pa., Big Ten poll says

University Park, Pa. -- Deepening concerns of state residents over the worsening economy and jobs and a desire for change boosted presidential candidate Barack Obama ahead of John McCain in Pennsylvania, according to the second Big Ten Battleground Poll.

According to the poll, 52 percent of the Pennsylvania residents in the survey said they had decided upon or leaned toward Obama/Biden; 41.5 percent toward McCain/Palin. However, 5.4 percent were still undecided or did not respond.

"Consistent with other polls, we're seeing Obama with a sizable lead," said Michael Berkman, Penn State professor of political science and a Big Ten poll adviser. "Obama is doing better among women than men, among younger than older voters, and among those with a college education than those without.

"McCain's strongest support in Pennsylvania, as elsewhere, appears to be less well-educated White men," said Berkman.

Given the demographics of the state as somewhat older than other states, and the fact that there is no early voting in Pennsylvania, "it makes sense that McCain is still working hard to bring down Obama's lead here before Nov. 4," he added.

Obama is ahead in every Big Ten state, including Indiana, where McCain held a slight edge in September and a Democrat has not won since 1964. The margin of error for the state polls was 4 percentage points.

The individual surveys of 566 randomly selected registered voters and those likely to register to vote in Pennsylvania were conducted by phone from Oct. 19-22 and were co-directed by University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientists Charles Franklin and Ken Goldstein and researchers at the participating universities.

The states included in the poll were Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.

The October survey was taken after the financial crisis worsened and following all presidential and vice presidential debates.

According to the poll, 61 percent of Pennsylvania respondents cited the economy and jobs as the most important problem facing the U.S, followed by terrorism and national security (9 percent) and health care (8 percent).

About 93 percent said the nation's economy has worsened, with only 5.7 percent saying it was the same and less than 1 percent said it was better.

Overall, 84.4 percent feel the country is on the wrong track, while only 11.6 percent of those surveyed feel the U.S. is moving in the right direction. Specifically when asked about Pennsylvania, 53.7 percent of the respondents feel that things have gotten off on the wrong track, compared with 38 percent choosing the right direction. About 8 percent didn't know or didn't respond.

"Compared with the first poll, more people feel that Obama would be better than McCain at bringing about change (59 percent to 29 percent)," said Berkman, the author of several books on U.S. politics and policies. "However, a majority of people still said that the term 'experienced' better describes McCain than Obama (72 percent to nearly 18 percent).

When asked about the war in Iraq, more than half of the Pennsylvania respondents surveyed (52.4 percent) said that in their view, the most responsible thing to do is set a firm deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops within the next 16 months -- basically the position taken by Obama. This compares to 44 percent who said that the most responsible thing to do is to remain in Iraq until the situation in the country stabilizes -- McCain's position.

The September story about the Pennsylvania results of the first Big Ten Battleground poll is at:

For more details about the poll, go to

Last Updated July 28, 2017