Greenberg Quinlan Rosner
National Public Radio


Executive Summary

With just over a week left before the election, Barack Obama’s strategy of campaigning on a big battlefield may be paying off in a second wave election in a row, and in an entirely new electoral map both for the White House and all other offices. Obama seems to have done everything he needed to do to take advantage of the country’s angry mood and desire to vote for change. This conclusion is based on the latest bi-partisan presidential battleground survey for National Public Radio conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Public Opinion Strategies - though these conclusions do not reflect the views of NPR or POS.

While John McCain looked like he might be the candidate to challenge the current trends, that is clearly no longer true in the battleground states where Obama is leading the race 52 to 41 percent - a 15-point swing from Bush’s margin 4 years ago in states he carried by 4 points. This is a fifty percent bigger swing than in the wave election of 2006.

While McCain might have challenged Obama in the battle for independents, Obama has moved into a 12-point lead among these voters. While McCain and Palin might have challenged Obama for Democratic defectors, Obama has consolidated 90 percent of De-mocrats. While McCain and Palin might have won back voters in rural areas, Obama is losing here by only single digits and he is ahead in suburban areas by double-digits. Also, despite McCain having gained the upper hand with more socially conservative Catholics, Obama is ahead with Catholics overall and is in a dead heat for white older non-college women.

McCain made a decision to contest “change” and devalue “experience” and “national security.” That was a costly choice, as change has become dominant over experience by two-to-one as a voting criteria and “keeping the country safe” is proving no more important than the economy and reform in shaping people’s vote.

In this context, Obama has emerged as the stronger leader.

This is being solidified by a growing intensity of communication and voter contact where Obama’s campaign enjoys substantial advantages on traditional forms of campaigning, like TV advertising and door-to-door knocking, phone calls and mail, but also on all forms of internet-based communication.

The financial crisis was a turning point in the election - but largely because it clarified the basis for choosing the president and the qualities and policy approach each candidate brought to the moment.

Key Findings

  • Barack Obama enjoys an 11-point lead (52 - 41 percent) across these 15 battleground states. This represents a 15-point swing since 2004 when President Bush carried this states by 4 points.
  • The once tough battle between Obama and McCain for independents has broken for Obama as he now holds a 12-point lead among this bloc of voters.
  • The McCain campaign made “change” the centerpiece of their message following their convention and though they once narrowed Obama’s lead on “bringing the right kind of change” to just 6 points Obama has now tripled that margin over the last month and edges McCain on the central theme of the election by 18 points.
  • The Obama campaign leads the McCain campaign on contacting voters through all forms of communication, including both the traditional and non-traditional modes of communication.


These results are based on a bi-partisan survey conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner in conjunction with Public Opinion Strategies for National Public Radio. The survey fielded October 19-21, 2008 in the presidential battleground states. It has a sample size of 1,000 likely voters and a margin of error of +/-3.2 percent. The battleground states included in this sample are Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Minne-sota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.