One way to think about the electoral landscape and make predictions for November is to focus on the “fundamentals,” such as the state of the economy. As I discussed earlier, those fundamentals tilt in Democrats’ favor.
A second way is to answer to two questions: what is the most important problem facing the country, and who can best handle that problem? Below are some recent data (from a March 7-10 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll and a Feb. 28-Mar. 2 ABC/Washington Post poll) that get at Americans’ priorities and their evaluations of the front-runners, respectively:
(Note: The ABC/WP poll did not ask comparable items about Hillary Clinton.)
Obama does just as well and sometimes better among independents; see here.
Attitudes about the parties show similar patterns:
(Source: Feb. 20-24 Pew poll.)
The issues that are most salient right now are issues where the public is more likely to trust Obama and the Democrats than McCain and the GOP. McCain tends to fare better than his party in that the “gap” between him and Obama is smaller than that between the parties. But nevertheless he trails with regard to the economy, health care, and immigration, and has a statistically insignificant lead with regard to Iraq.
Thus, the issue agendas of (some, perhaps crucial) voters may lead them to vote Democratic. The political science research undergirding this notion is by John Petrocik (article here, gated). Note also that this model of choice is less complicated that one based on issue positions — whose role Lee and I have complicated previously (here and here).