WASHINGTON – Although Democrats are tangled in a fractious presidential primary, both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama probably would beat presumptive Republican nominee John McCain in the popular vote if the election were held now, according to a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll.
McCain remains competitive, but the poll identified one important vulnerability: Voters ranked him lowest among the three candidates on who could best handle the nation’s economic problems – by far the most pressing concern for the public irrespective of party, gender or income.
Of the three main candidates, Clinton inspired the most confidence on the economy, even though she appears unlikely to win the Democratic nomination.
In a hypothetical matchup between Clinton and McCain, the New York senator led the Arizonan by 47 percent to 38 percent, with 11 percent saying they were undecided.
In a contest between Obama and McCain, the poll gave the Illinois senator a 46 percent-40 percent lead over the Republican, with 9 percent undecided. The nationwide poll released Friday had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The results represent a shift from a Times/Bloomberg poll in February, in which McCain led Clinton by 6 percentage points and Obama by 2, within the poll’s margin of error. The direction has changed in favor of the Democrats.
“Although there is such infighting now between the two Democratic candidates, we are finding that both Democrats are beating McCain, and this could be attributed to the weakening of the economy,” said Times polling director Susan Pinkus, who supervised the survey.
For example, among the 78 percent of voters who said they believe the economy has slid into a recession, 52 percent would vote for Obama, compared with 32 percent for McCain. A matchup between Clinton and McCain showed nearly identical results.
The poll was based on telephone interviews with 2,208 adults nationwide – 1,986 of them registered voters – from May 1 to 8.