Hillary Clinton has an 8-point lead over Barack Obama heading into Tuesday's Ohio Democratic primary, due largely to the support of white women, seniors and working-class voters, while the race is virtually a tie in Texas, where Obama tops Clinton by a slim 3 points, according to a FOX News Poll released Friday.
In addition, even though many more voters think Clinton is very qualified to be president, large majorities in Ohio and Texas would be happy with either candidate as their nominee.
"An issue Clinton faces in these important contests is voters do not view Obama’s relative lack of qualifications as a deal-breaker. Voters are convinced she is qualified—it’s just not as salient a factor as the desire for change," said Ernest Paicopolos, a principal of Opinion Dynamics Corporation.
The Ohio and Texas telephone polls were conducted for FOX News by Opinion Dynamics Corporation among 600 likely Democratic primary voters in each state from Feb. 26 to Feb. 28. Each poll has an overall 4-point error margin.
The Race in Ohio
As has been the case in earlier primaries, Clinton performs well with voters over age 55, women, union voters, those without a college degree and voters wanting a candidate with experience.
Obama’s best support comes from men, college educated voters, higher-income voters, Iraq war voters and those looking for change.
Blacks back Obama by a wide margin; whites are more likely to back Clinton — by a slimmer margin, but still by double-digits. In fact, among white men — an increasingly strong segment for Obama in recent primaries — Clinton wins by a narrow 3-point margin.
Independents can vote in Ohio’s open primary, and they break almost evenly: 42 percent Clinton – 38 percent Obama. The party faithful support Clinton by 48 – 38 percent.
In addition to winning most groups, it’s important to note that, in general, those siding with Clinton represent a larger portion of the electorate than those more likely to favor Obama.
Even though there are just a few days before the election, this race remains volatile. In fact, 14 percent of Ohio Democratic primary voters are undecided, and another 15 percent say they could change their mind.
The strength of support is fairly even, as 83 percent of Clinton voters and 81 percent of Obama voters say they are "certain to support" their candidate.
To be sure, the consensus is both candidates are qualified to be president: Fully 89 percent think Clinton is and 76 percent Obama. Clinton’s real advantage comes from those saying she is "very" qualified – 61 percent – significantly higher than the 36 percent who say the same of Obama.
Despite this difference, most Ohio Democrats would be happy with either candidate as their nominee. Eight of 10 would be satisfied if Clinton wins, including 50 percent "very" satisfied, and 16 percent dissatisfied. For Obama, a smaller majority than for Clinton, but still more than 7 of 10 would be pleased, including 41 percent very satisfied, and 25 percent dissatisfied.
A 51 percent majority of Clinton voters would be satisfied if Obama wins the nomination, and nearly two thirds of Obama supporters – 64 percent – would be satisfied if Clinton wins.
By more than 2-1, the economy (47 percent) tops the list as the most important issue here – far outdistancing health care (22 percent) and the Iraq war (19 percent).
The most important candidate quality voters are looking for is the ability to "bring about needed change" (36 percent), but many want someone who "has the right experience" (28 percent), while others want a candidate who "understands average Americans" (23 percent).
Moreover, among those saying a candidate’s "record of accomplishments" is very important in their decision, they back Clinton by 60 – 37 percent.
The Vote in Texas
In Texas, the key groups helping Obama claim an edge include independents, blacks, younger voters and men. Clinton has a large advantage among Hispanics, white women and seniors—but this is not enough to propel her into the lead at this point.
Not only does Obama capture almost all of the support among black voters, but the poll also finds he essentially ties Clinton among white voters.
An indication this race could swing either way is evidenced by the one of five Obama voters (21 percent) saying they may change their mind, just a bit higher than Clinton voters (17 percent).
Slightly more Clinton supporters (83 percent) than Obama supporters (77 percent) are certain about their vote.
Lone Star Democrats think both candidates are qualified for the job, although here again slightly more think Clinton is "very qualified" (58 percent) than say the same of Obama (44 percent). And they would also be happy with a Clinton or Obama nomination: 47 percent would be "very satisfied" if Clinton wins and 50 percent if Obama does.
Unlike Ohio, where nearly half cite the economy as the top issue, in Texas the economy (32 percent) is closely followed by the issues of the Iraq war (25 percent) and health care (23 percent).
The most important candidate attribute is "change" (36 percent), followed by "experience" (29 percent). Change voters strongly back Obama (74-21 percent), and experience voters are much more likely to support Clinton (86-8 percent).
There is widespread sentiment this is an historic election, and 76 percent of Ohio Democrats and 79 percent of Texas Democrats say their vote makes them feel like they are participating in a "significant moment in the country’s history."
In Ohio, 65 percent of Obama voters and 55 percent of Clinton voters say they "strongly" feel they are part of history in the making. Similarly, about two-thirds of each candidate’s supporters strongly feel they are making history this year in Texas.