Solid margins among women, minorities and young voters have powered Barack Obama to a 6-percentage-point lead over John McCain in the presidential race, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday.
Obama is ahead of his Republican rival 47 percent to 41 percent among registered voters, the poll showed. The survey was taken after the Democratic senator had returned from a trip to Middle Eastern and European capitals, and during a week that saw the two camps clash over which one had brought race into a campaign in which an Obama victory would make him the first African-American president.
McCain, the senator from Arizona, is leading by 10 points among whites and is even with Obama among men, groups with whom Republicans traditionally do well in national elections. He has a 17-point lead with white men and was running strongly among married men, rural residents and white evangelicals.
Obama leads by 13 points among women, by 30 points among voters up to age 34, and by 55 points among blacks, Hispanics and other minorities, the poll shows. He is also doing strongly with unmarried men, moderates and city dwellers, and has a 12-point lead among those saying they definitely plan to vote.
The two men were evenly dividing Catholics and suburban residents, swing groups the parties contest in every election.
Obama's modest lead is consistent with other polls taken in recent weeks. Besides the accusations over how each side would use race in the campaign, the AP-Ipsos survey came as the two candidates vied over how best to ease energy prices and spur the weak economy, and as McCain released an ad likening Obama's celebrity to that of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.
Independent Ralph Nader and Libertarian Bob Barr both won support from fewer than 5 percent of those surveyed. When people were asked who they would support if Nader and Barr were not on the ballot, Obama's lead over McCain was virtually unchanged.
The poll showed a huge Democratic advantage when voters ponder which party they would like to see control Congress next year. Democrats were favored over Republicans 53 percent to 35 percent, underscoring the mountainous disadvantage McCain and other GOP candidates are facing in the Nov. 4 voting.
The poll illustrated other ways damage has been inflicted on the Republican brand name as well.
Just 18 percent think the country is moving in the right direction, and only 31 percent approve of the job Republican President George W. Bush is doing. Both readings are a bit better than the record lows in the AP-Ipsos poll that both measures scored in mid-July.
Congressional approval was at 19 percent, just above last month's all-time AP-Ipsos low. Because Congress is almost always widely disliked as an institution and its members come from both parties, that reading is usually a murky measure of whether the majority party — Democrats this year — is in trouble.
The poll was conducted July 31-Aug. 4 and involved telephone interviews with 1,002 adults, for whom the margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Included were interviews with 833 registered voters, for whom the error margin was plus or minus 3.4 points.