PRINCETON, NJ -- By a 71% to 23% margin, Americans expect that Barack Obama will be elected president in next Tuesday's election, including a 49% to 46% ratio of John McCain's own supporters who say Obama, rather than their own candidate, will win.
Belief that Obama will win has increased significantly from last June, when Americans viewed his victory as probable by a narrower 52% to 41% margin.
As is often the case for candidates who are down in the polls in the last weeks of a campaign, McCain has incorporated into his speech a statement to the effect that despite polls showing him losing to Obama, he will ultimately win.
The current Gallup Poll data, from Oct. 23-26, suggest that McCain's own supporters have not yet come to the point where they agree with their candidate that he will be able to pull off a victory in the election. By a 49% to 46% margin, McCain voters say Obama will win. On the other hand, perhaps not surprisingly, Obama voters overwhelmingly believe that their candidate will win, by a 94% to 2% margin.
The implications of this belief structure on the actual vote next Tuesday are unclear, as are the implications on the vote of those who have already voted via absentee ballot or early voting.
Some may argue that Obama might be hurt if his supporters become complacent and end up not voting (something Obama himself has warned against on the campaign trail).
Others may argue that McCain supporters might "give up" and not vote if they feel their candidate does not have a chance of winning. But the weekend poll shows that Republicans (the vast majority of whom say they will vote for McCain) have actually gained significantly on enthusiasm about voting since Gallup's Oct. 10-12 poll, despite their pessimism about their candidate's chances of winning. In mid-October, 51% of Republicans were more enthusiastic about voting this year than in previous elections; now that number is 65%. (Republicans still lag behind Democrats on this enthusiasm measure, however; 76% of Democrats are more enthusiastic than usual about voting.)
Whatever the implications, the data certainly indicate that Obama is winning the expectations game at this point in the campaign, with the substantial majority of Americans holding the opinion that Sen. Obama will be their next president.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,010 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 23-26, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.