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Poll Shows Women Voters Shifting Support to McCain-Palin


Republican presidential nominee John McCain has shaken up the race for the White House and pumped new excitement into his campaign by choosing Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential candidate. VOA Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at a potential "Palin effect" on the November 4 election.

Several polls taken after the Republican National Convention show John McCain's popularity ratings are surging upward, and some show him holding a slight lead over his opponent, Barack Obama.

One poll in particular may be causing concern for the Obama campaign. A new Washington Post/ABC News survey finds McCain is now ahead of Obama by 12 points among white women, 53 to 41 percent.

Last month Senator Obama held an eight point lead over McCain among white women voters in the same poll, representing a stunning, 20 point shift among that group.

There is similar movement, but not quite as dramatic, in another poll released this week. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows Obama's lead among women shrinking from 14 points a month ago to just four points now.

Karlyn Bowman, Senior Fellow with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, and an expert on U.S. politics and public-opinion polls, says it is not clear whether this major shift in opinion will last, but it is clear that a lot of American women can relate to Palin, a 44-year-old mother of five. "But I also think that Sarah Palin connected with a lot of ordinary women voters, with her speech at the convention, with the discussions of her family, and some of the struggles and ups and downs that family has had."

Palin emerged at the Republican National Convention as a virtual unknown on the national stage, and her family has played a prominent role in her introduction to the country. She has a five-month-old son with with Down's Syndrome, and a 17-year-old daughter who is pregnant and plans to marry the baby's father.

Janice Crouse, with the socially-conservative Christian political action group Concerned Women for America, says she believes a majority of American women will support Palin in the election because they agree with her on important issues. "The majority of American women are very common sense people. You know, they support traditional American values, they know the value of marriage, they know the value of family, they know the value of life. And they admire someone who puts feet to their beliefs, who is authentic, who is real, who is not just spinning things for a political benefit,"

Palin says she opposes abortion even if the mother is a victim of rape or incest and some analysts say her views hold strong appeal for social conservatives, both men and women who constitute an important base of the Republican Party. But they say many other women will have trouble with her views on social issues once they get to know her better.

ABC analyst Matthew Dowd says when there is a sudden and large shift in polls such as with Palin, it is usually temporary. "Usually when you have swings this large and this quick, they do not stick for a long time. They are quick, because something has changed fundamentally, and then people take a second look at this," he said.

There was a similar phenomenon in 1984, when Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale nominated Geraldine Ferraro as his vice presidential candidate. She was the first woman to be nominated as vice president on a major U.S. party ticket, Palin is the second.

Mondale's pick gave him a sudden 15-point boost in the polls, but within weeks, the numbers returned to where they were before. Mondale ended up losing the election in a landslide to Ronald Reagan.

The Palin phenomenon has definitely caught the Obama campaign by surprise. Obama acknowledged that Palin has energized Republicans, but said he could not believe that voters would being swinging back and forth "this wildly." "What we are going to have to do is see how things settle out over the next few weeks, when people start examining who is actually going to deliver on the issues that people care about."

With less than eight weeks to go to the November 4 election, women voters may determine whether Governor Sarah Palin is a shooting star or a political force to be reckoned with now and in the future.