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CNN poll: GOP takes brunt of blame for economy; Obama gains

  • Story Highlights
  • Nearly half of those polled blame Republicans for current financial crisis
  • Obama leading McCain 51-46 percent, according to CNN poll out Monday
  • Majority of respondents view Obama as better on economic issues
  • Next Article in Politics »
By Paul Steinhauser
CNN Deputy Political Director
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- By a 2-to-1 ratio, Americans blame Republicans over Democrats for the financial crisis that has swept across the country the past few weeks, a new national poll suggests.

Sen. John McCain speaks to the National Guard Association in Baltimore, Maryland, on Monday.

Sen. Barack Obama greets supporters during a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on Monday.

That may be contributing to better poll numbers for Sen. Barack Obama against Sen. John McCain in the race for the White House.

In a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey out Monday afternoon, 47 percent of registered voters questioned said Republicans are more responsible for the problems currently facing financial institutions and the stock market; only 24 percent said Democrats are more responsible.

Twenty percent blame both parties equally and 8 percent say neither party is to blame.

The poll also indicates more Americans think Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, would do a better job handling an economic crisis than McCain, the Republican presidential nominee. Video Watch Obama blast McCain on the economy »

Forty-nine percent of those questioned said Obama, D-Illinois, would display good judgment in an economic crisis, six points higher than McCain, R-Arizona.

And Obama has a 10-point lead over McCain when it comes to who respondents think would better handle the economy overall.

These numbers seem to be affecting the battle for the presidency. Fifty-one percent of registered voters now say they will back Obama, five points ahead of McCain, at 46 percent.

McCain and Obama were tied at 48 percent apiece in the previous CNN/Opinion Research survey conducted September 5-7.

Obama's advantage, while growing, is still within the poll's sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Where did Obama make his gains?

"In two core McCain constituencies: men, who now narrowly favor Obama, and seniors, who have also flipped from McCain to Obama," said Bill Schneider, a CNN senior political analyst.

When including people most likely to vote, the results are pretty much the same. Among likely voters, Obama has a four-point lead, 51 percent to 47 percent. Video Watch McCain blast Obama for not having a plan »

A CNN Poll of Polls calculated Monday also shows Obama leading McCain -- 49 percent to 44 percent.

"The economy has always been considered John McCain's Achilles' heel, and the CNN Poll of Polls started to show an Obama edge in the middle of last week -- just as the financial crisis began to hit home for many Americans," said Keating Holland, CNN's polling director.

The poll also expands to include third-party candidates. When included in the results, independent Ralph Nader has the support of 4 percent of those polled, with Libertarian candidate Bob Barr and Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney each at 1 percent. Also, Obama has the backing of 48 percent of likely voters, three points ahead of McCain's 45 percent.

A couple of other factors in the survey appear to contribute to Obama's slight rise and McCain's slight drop in the polls. Fifty-three percent of those questioned say McCain, if elected, will mostly carry out the policies of President Bush, who remains extremely unpopular with most Americans. Bush's disapproval rating is up three points from the previous CNN/Opinion Research poll. Video Watch Obama's ad tying McCain to Bush »

The survey also indicates Obama has recaptured the "change" factor. Just after the Republican convention, Obama's lead had shrunk to eight points when voters were asked which candidate would be more likely to bring change. His lead is up to 14 points in the new poll.

The margin of error on that question is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Another factor could be McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Thirty-five percent of those questioned have an unfavorable opinion of her, up 8 points from a previous survey. And two-thirds believe she and her husband should testify in the Alaska investigation into the firing of a state official.

"Change has always been Obama's strong suit, but McCain and Palin clearly made inroads into that issue during the GOP convention," Holland said. "Palin, in particular, was seen as an agent of change when she made her first appearance on the national stage. That may be changing now."

The poll also sheds more light on how Americans feel about the financial crisis. Twenty-two percent said they are "frightened" by the crisis, while two-thirds said they are "concerned." Eleven percent said they are "not worried." iReport.com: Is the financial crisis hurting your business?

Most Americans think the programs to deal with the financial crisis currently being worked on by Congress and the Bush administration will be unfair to U.S. taxpayers, but they think those programs will help the economy.

Six in 10 think the federal government should step in and address the financial crisis, and 37 percent say the government should stay out. But when it comes to last week's bailouts, support slips to 55 percent. Given concerns about how future programs will affect taxpayers, it's conceivable that public support for the new government plans could be even lower.

The survey comes out just four days before McCain and Obama face off in the first of three presidential debates. Will the debates make a difference? Probably, since the poll finds that 14 percent of Americans say they haven't made up their minds yet.

The first debate, scheduled for Friday in Oxford, Mississippi, will focus on foreign policy, a topic that may play into what some registered voters see as a strength for McCain. The poll finds 54 percent of them believe McCain would display better judgment in an international crisis; 42 percent believe Obama would.

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The margin of error on that question is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Conducted Friday through Sunday, the CNN/Opinion Research poll questioned 1020 Americans including 909 registered voters and 697 likely voters.

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