Poll: Ky. Democrats Give Clinton Commanding Lead

Kentucky appears to be going against the tide giving Sen. Hillary Clinton a commanding lead over Sen. Barack Obama among voters in the Bluegrass state. In a WKYT/The Herald-Leader statewide poll of 500 likely Democratic voters, 58 percent said they would vote for Clinton over Obama who trailed with 31 percent.

While Obama is now turning attention to the fall feeling his nomination is a sure thing, Clinton shows no sign of willing to drop out of the race.

Kentucky is the nation's second best bell-weather state with a perfect record of picking the winner in presidential elections since 1964. Only Missouri has a slightly longer streak.

"Kentucky always picks the president," Clinton told supporters in Louisville on Friday. The poll found Clinton’s support in Kentucky is strong among men, women, whites, and all age groups in which she was favored by a majority of those surveyed.

The director of Eastern Kentucky University’s Center for Kentucky Politics told WKYT the Clinton advantage in Kentucky is significant, especially given the national tide that's running in Obamas' favor. "She enjoys the Clinton legacy. Her husband was a popular man in the Commonwealth,” said Joe Gershtenson. “We voted for him twice. He had high approvals here. She's got that going, and the demographics of the state work in her favor."

African-Americans were the only group that Obama had the majority of support. While Obama recently earned 90 percent of the African-American vote in other states, his support in Kentucky is 78 percent according to the poll. In Kentucky, Clinton scored a rare double-digit (16 percent) show of support among African-Americans.

Democrats vs. McCain

While Democrats polled believed she is the party’s best choice to face Sen. John McCain -- the presumptive Republican presidential nominee -- in November, a separate WKYT/The Herald-Leader poll of 600 voters from both parties and independents showed McCain would easily win the state. The poll found McCain would beat Clinton, 53-41, if she won the Democratic nomination. McCain would beat Obama, 58-33, in Kentucky.

"McCain has some crossover,” said Gershtenson. “We know that McCain sometime has this reputation as a maverick within his own party."

The poll was conducted for WKYT and The Herald-Leader by Research 2000 last week following Obama’s definitive win in North Carolina and Clinton’s narrow victory in Indiana.

A large percentage of Democrats polled say they would defect to McCain if their candidate doesn’t win the May 20 primary. Thirty-two percent of Clinton supporters indicate they would vote for McCain, if she's not the Democratic nominee. Nineteen percent of Obama's Kentucky supporters indicate they would defect to McCain if he didn’t win the nomination.

Gender & Race Not A Factor

The majority of those surveyed don’t think Clinton’s gender or Obama’s race is a factor in their electability. The poll found 63 percent of likely Kentucky Democratic voters think Clinton's gender doesn’t make her any more or less electable. Fifty-six percent think Obama's race won't be a factor either.

"In terms of gender, it's not all that surprising,” said EKU’s Gershtenson. “We have had a female governor so we know females can win statewide races here. That's not particularly surprising. Race is perhaps a little more surprising."

Controversies and Scrutiny

Both Clinton and Obama have been the targets of tough scrutiny. Obama for his controversial former pastor and comments about small town voters. Clinton for stretching the truth about the safety of her trip to Bosnia.

In the WKYT/The Herald-Leader poll, 43 percent said the racially-charged sermons from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright will have a negative impact on Obama's chances. But 62 percent think Obama's own comments about small-town Americans who have lost their jobs and "cling to guns or religion" won't impact their vote.

Exactly two-thirds (66 percent) of the Democrats polled say Clinton's slip about being under fire while in Bosnia years ago doesn't matter either.

Poll Methodology

WKYT and The Herald-Leader conducted the poll with the assistance of Research 2000 of Olney, Md. Between May and 9, a total of 500 likely Democratic primary voters were interviewed statewide telephone.

Those interviewed were selected by the random variation of the last four digits of telephone numbers. A cross section of exchanges was utilized to ensure and accurate reflection of the state. Quotas were assigned to reflect the voter registration of distribution by county.

The margin of error, according to standards customarily used by statisticians, is no more than plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. This means there is a 95 percent probability that the “true” figure would fall within that range if the entire population were sampled. The margin of error is higher for any subgroup, such as gender or party affiliation.

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