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Barack Obama and women voters: His numbers are good, but could be better

August 21, 2008 |  6:04 am

The antipathy toward Barack Obama among some Hillary Clinton backers notwithstanding, he's doing well among the nation's female voters -- better, according to a new poll focusing on female voters, than Al Gore's advaDemocratic presidential nominee and Illinois senator Barack Obama at a townhall meeting in Virginiantage as summer was starting in 2000 or John Kerry's edge at a comparable period four years later.

But the pollster whose firm conducted the survey for EMILY's List sees room for improvement by Obama among women voters -- especially older ones.

“There are still Democratic votes on the table" that Obama "can go out and get,” Geoff Garin said at a briefing Wednesday attended by The Times' Cynthia Dizikes.

The poll of more than 1,400 women voters quizzed during the first week of August found Obama ahead of John McCain by 12 percentage points.

So far, so good, from a Democratic point of view. Gore led in a similar survey by 9 points in June 2000; on election day, network exit polls showed him carrying the women's vote over George W. Bush by 11 points. Kerry led among these voters by a mere 1 point in a June survey when he ran for the presidency; he eventually won them by 3 points in his loss to Bush, according to the exit polls.

But just as Obama is widely perceived to be underperforming in polling of all voters -- a perception that has only grown with several new surveys showing him in a virtual dead heat with McCain -- Garin's analysis of his results indicates that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee should not be satisfied with his current support level among women.

The sweeping poll, which asked questions on a range of topics and can be examined here, found that when dividing its participants into age groups, Obama had the potential to improve his numbers.

The poll respondents were asked not only about the presidential race, but whether they would support a "generic" (i.e., theoretical) Democratic or Republican congressional candidate.

Those between the ages of 44 to 62 (baby boomers) favored Obama over McCain by 6 percentage points -- but the generic Democratic over a Republican by 17 points.

The gap was even more striking among those older than 62; this group tilted toward Obama by 11 points, but toward the generic Democrat by a whopping 27 points.

Senior women represent Obama's ...

... “greatest room for growth,” Garin said.

Of course, he also could staunch talk of underperforming by improving his support among men, where McCain has established dominance.

In the new L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll, for instance, McCain countered Obama's 11-percentage-point lead among women with an 8-point lead among men.

“There is a gender gap,” Garin said.  “[Obama] is doing very well with women voters, but there is the other side.”

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: Associated Press

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