Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has established a double digit lead over his Republican rival John McCain just two weeks ahead of crucial elections, a just released poll says.
The Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll found that 52 per cent voters favour Obama against 42 per cent who support McCain, showing a four per cent increase since the poll two weeks ago. The poll has a margin of error plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
The poll says that a growing number of voters said that they were comfortable with the Democrat's values, background and ability to serve as commander-in-chief.
It's the largest lead in the Journal/NBC poll so far, and represents a steady climb for Senator Obama since early September, when the political conventions concluded with the candidates in a statistical tie.
"Voters have reached a comfort level with Barack Obama," said Peter D Hart, a Democratic pollster who conducts the poll with Republican Neil Newhouse.
Though most voters polled said that McCain is better prepared for the White House than the first-term Obama, there are increasing concerns about the readiness of McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the poll showed.
The race, the Journal said, has rested largely on the question of whether voters could get comfortable with Obama, the first African-American to run on a major party ticket, and one who has been on the national political scene for just a few years.
McCain has worked to stoke concerns about Obama's past and his qualifications, raising questions about his rival's character and his association with 1960s-era radical William Ayers. The new poll suggests that these attacks haven't worked.
The poll found that Obama now holds a 12-percentage-point advantage with independents, a group both sides have fiercely sought. Two weeks ago, Obama led this group by just four percentage points. In mid-September, independents favoured McCain by 13 points.
Obama leads suburban voters by 12 percentage points, up from two points two weeks ago. He leads among older voters, those over 65-years-old, by nine points, erasing a one-point McCain advantage from the last poll. And in the Midwest, home to a swath of battleground states, he is now favoured by 25 points, up from a one-point advantage.
Some daily tracking polls, the journal said, have found a tighter race between McCain and Obama in recent days. Real Clear Politics, a Web site that averages major polls, shows Obama up by 7.2 percentage points.
Others have found a larger spread, such as one released Tuesday by the Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press, a nonpartisan research group. That poll found a 14-point advantage for Obama among registered voters.
Many polls also show McCain lagging in key battleground states, which hold the electoral votes that could decide the race.
Obama, the paper said, has also eaten into traditional Republican advantages, notably on taxes, despite McCain's attempts to make the issue a central economic theme of the campaign's closing days.
In the mid-September Journal poll, McCain was favoured 41 per cent to 37 per cent when voters were asked which candidate would be "better on taxes." This week's poll found Obama leading on the issue by 48 per cent to 34 per cent.
That, the Journal says, may be partly due to Obama's argument that McCain would raise taxes on health-insurance benefits. While McCain's health plan does raise some taxes, the plan overall represents a net tax cut, the paper said, citing independent estimates.