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Poll shows McCain up slightly in Ohio over Obama

COLUMBUS (AP) — A poll giving John McCain a slight edge in Ohio found a majority of likely voters who say things are worse today than four years ago.

McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, leads Democrat Barack Obama 48 percent to 42 percent, according to the Ohio Newspaper Poll released Sunday.

The poll found voters mostly lining up behind their candidate by party, with 81 percent of Democrats supporting Obama and 85 percent of Republicans supporting McCain.

The poll also found that 47 percent of voters say they are worse off than four years ago, with 34 percent saying they are about the same and 19 percent saying they are better off.

The survey is the first poll commissioned by the Ohio News Organization, a cooperative of the state’s eight largest daily newspapers formed earlier this year.

The Sept. 12-16 phone survey of 869 likely Ohio voters had a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Beyond the 90 percent of voters who favored either McCain or Obama, the remaining 10 percent were either undecided or supported one of the two minor-party candidates. Independent Party candidate Ralph Nader had 4 percent support and Libertarian Bob Barr had 1 percent in the poll.

‘‘Even though it seems like this presidential race has gone on for an eternity, in many ways, especially in Ohio, it’s just getting started,’’ said Eric Rademacher, interim co-director of the University of Cincinnati research institute, which conducted the survey for the Ohio News Organization.

Rademacher said voters still are learning about Obama and there is still potential for change in the race. Rademacher said one reason the race remains tight is because Democrats aren’t embracing Obama as strongly as Republicans are embracing McCain.

Obama is losing 12 percent of Democrats to McCain and another 4 percent to Nader. But McCain is dropping only 8 percent of Republicans to Obama and 3 percent to Nader and Barr, the poll found.

Clarence Martin, an employee of a shipping operation in southwest Ohio that is slated to be shut down soon, said he is backing McCain because he believes keeping taxes low is the way to spur investment.

‘‘I’m still on the fence but mostly for McCain,’’ said Martin, 57, of Hillsboro. ‘‘It just seems like he’s a better choice than Obama at the moment.’’

Martin’s employer, ABX Air, contracts with DHL Express, which announced in May it would close the Wilmington Air Park hub, eliminating 8,000 jobs, including Martin’s.

Tommy Crane of Defiance said he has voted Republican in some previous elections but this year is supporting Obama.

‘‘I don’t like the way our economy is. I don’t like the way the war is dragging out there, killing kids,’’ said Crane, 67, retired after 40 years with General Motors as a heavy equipment operator and then in quality control.

‘‘And we do need a change, buddy, I’m telling you. We’re going downhill,’’ he said.

Among other poll results:

—70 percent agreed that global warming is a proven fact, not an unproven theory. However, fewer than half — or 46 percent — blamed man-made emissions.

—55 percent said investing in alternative energy sources should be the top priority for U.S. energy policy, while 29 percent saw expanded exploration and drilling for oil and natural gas as the top priority.

—65 percent of respondents said they support providing health care for all Americans, even if it means raising taxes.

Poll respondents attributed such qualities as ‘‘good judgment’’ and ‘‘higher personal and ethical standards’’ to McCain more than Obama.

But Obama scored better in categories such as ‘‘personally likable’’ and ‘‘and best understands the problems facing Ohio.’’

The results suggest voters don’t know as much about Obama as they do about McCain, Rademacher said.

‘‘Obama still has some work to do in terms of introducing himself in broad scale on policy to Ohio voters,’’ Rademacher said.