A recent national opinion poll of women voters shows Democratic candidate Barack Obama with a commanding lead over Republican candidate John McCain for the November presidential election. The Lifetime Television network poll also examines the lasting impact of Senator Hillary Clinton's White House bid, as Cindy Saine reports from Washington. 
Lifetime Television Network is sponsoring a nonpartisan campaign to engage women in the U.S. political process - encouraging women to go out and vote, and to run for public office. Democratic pollster Celinda Lake announced the results of a national poll of 700 women conducted in late July on their preferences for president.

"The race for women is not decided yet, although women voters are giving Obama a solid lead, but neither candidate has over 50 percent of the women yet," Lake said. "Forty-nine percent of the women polled said they support Obama, 38 percent are supporting McCain and 10 percent of women are undecided."

The poll, led by Lake and Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, shows that 53 percent of women hold mostly favorable views of Obama. Women said they like him because of his personal attributes, citing his intelligence, speaking ability, youth, honesty and energy. Those women with negative impressions of the 47-year-old African American senator from Illinois said he lacks the experience and qualifications to be president.

Thirty-seven percent of the women surveyed feel mostly favorable towards McCain, with most of them saying he has the right qualifications to be president. Women who like the 71-year-old senator from Arizona cited his experience, his positive personal traits and his stances on issues. Those women who disliked McCain cited his alignment with the Bush administration, personal attributes, including his age, and his support for the war in Iraq.

Lifetime's survey also asked women if they were to carpool [share a ride with someone] to save money on gasoline, who would they rather jump in the car with, Barack Obama or John McCain. Republican pollster Conway reveals their choice.

"Fifty-one percent of the women surveyed said they would rather carpool with Senator Obama, and 31 percent preferred to go with Senator McCain," Conway said. "Another six percent said "No way!", they will ride solo, and five percent said they would be happy to carpool with either one."

The survey showed that 76 percent of women who supported Senator Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries now say they will vote for Obama. Eighteen percent of Clinton supporters say they will vote for McCain. Despite disappointment among many, especially older women at Clinton's loss, the survey shows that a majority of women blame her loss on the candidate herself and her campaign strategists.  Only 21 percent said they believe she lost "because she is a woman." And as pollster Conway points out, most women credit Hillary Clinton with paving the way for future female presidential candidates.

"Sixty-nine percent say, of these women surveyed say that Mrs. Clinton's run actually helps women in the future, who want to run for, in the near future, who want to run for president. Only three percent said it actually hurt women and 26 percent claimed it made no difference," Conway said.

Andrew Kohut is president of the Pew Research Center and a leading pollster. He told VOA that his centers' recent polls also show Obama with a solid lead over McCain among women, comparable to former Vice President Al Gore's strong support from women voters in the 2000 election.

"Female voters are backing Obama at rates that are comparable to, I think Al Gore, at this any time in the election, or back in June or July when we made the comparison," Kohut said.

Kohut said polls show Obama running better among women than the 2004 Democratic nominee, Senator John Kerry, was at this point in the race. But Kohut cautioned there is one group of women that is not supporting Obama.

"The problem is most difficult for Obama with older women," Kohut said. "There is probably a couple of strikes there. Older people have more concerns about his lack of experience, and older women were pretty strong backers of Senator Clinton."


The Lifetime poll also shows that women 65 and over favor McCain by a nine-point margin over Obama.