October 15, 2008 / 12:08 PM / in 9 years

POLL-Obama has 4-point lead on McCain in U.S. race

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama has a 4-point national lead over Republican John McCain as the White House rivals head into their final debate, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.

Obama leads McCain 48 percent to 44 percent among likely U.S. voters in the latest four-day tracking poll, down slightly from Obama's 6-point advantage on Tuesday. The poll has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

Obama's lead in the poll has remained stable, drifting between 4 and 6 percentage points for the last week.

"It's not over, but it's not moving a lot," pollster John Zogby said. "There does not seem to be a dramatic shift going on."

Obama and McCain meet in their third and final debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on Wednesday night, giving McCain one last chance to reshape a presidential race that appears to be tilting toward Obama with less than three weeks before the Nov. 4 election.

Some other national polls in the last few days have shown Obama with a double-digit lead on McCain, fueled by perceptions Obama would do a better job managing the faltering economy and unhappiness with McCain's attacks on him over the past week.

A separate national survey taken for Reuters showed Obama led McCain on the question of managing the economy by 47 percent to 43 percent, a turnaround from September's poll that gave McCain a 2-point edge on the issue.

McCain, a former Navy pilot and prisoner of war in Vietnam, led Obama by 52 percent to 42 percent on the question of who would best manage foreign policy.

A large majority of 62 percent said the economy was the top issue in the campaign, followed by the war in Iraq and the threat of another terrorist attack on the United States.

Women, Independents for Obama

The Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll shows Obama with an 8-point edge among independents, down sharply from Tuesday, and an 8-point lead among women, two key swing voting blocs.

Both candidates have solidified their base support, winning nearly nine of every 10 votes from members of their own party.

McCain, 72, an Arizona senator, leads narrowly among men and by 14 points among whites. He reclaimed a slight lead among families with at least one member in the military.

Obama, 47, an Illinois senator who would be the first black president, wins nine of every 10 black voters and solid majorities of Hispanics, Catholics and Jewish voters.

The poll, conducted Saturday through Tuesday, showed independent Ralph Nader with 2 percent. Libertarian Bob Barr registered 1 percent.

Four percent of voters said they were still undecided.

The rolling tracking poll surveyed 1,210 likely voters in the presidential election. In a tracking poll, the most recent day's results are added while the oldest day's results are dropped in an effort to track changing momentum.

McCain and Obama are battling for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

The separate Zogby survey found McCain's surprise choice of Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, as his running mate made 30 percent less likely to vote for him while 26 percent were more likely.

The poll found 43 percent said it would have no effect on their vote.

Obama's choice of Delaware Sen. Joe Biden was less controversial, with 59 percent saying it would have no effect. Just 16 percent said it would make them less likely to vote for Obama and 26 percent said it would make them more likely.

The national Zogby poll taken for Reuters interviewed 1,207 likely voters and had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

Editing by Eric Beech

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