The final Pew poll before Tuesday’s presidential election shows Barack Obama with a 49-to-42 percentage-point lead over John McCain:
Though still a significant lead, it’s suddenly a much tighter race than Obama’s 15-point lead from last week.
There are two things closing the gap, says Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center. First, McCain has made some gains among whites, independents and middle-income voters. But the other boost he’s enjoying comes from narrowing the pool of responses from registered voters to likely voters.
Typically, Republican voters tend to vote more regularly than some Democratic voting groups — particularly young people and blacks, Kohut says. So while turnout is up among those groups, it’s also up across the board — giving Republicans a boost when the poll focuses on likely voters.
It may not be as strong as a week ago, but Obama’s lead in the Pew poll agrees with several national polls that have him ahead by a 5-point average.
“This is a pretty substantial lead,” Kohut says. “We haven’t had a lead for a candidate this substantial since 1996, when President Clinton was leading Sen. Dole in the final weekend of the campaign.”