Washington, Nov.4 : Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama holds a solid seven percentage point lead over Republican rival John McCain going into Election Day -- 50 percent to 43 percent -- according to the final FOX News pre-election poll of likely voters.
At the end of October, Obama led by 47-44 percent among likely voters, and by 49-40 percent about ten days ago (Oct 20-21).
The last time McCain led was immediately following the Republican Convention when he had a 45-42 percent edge (September 8-9 among registered voters).
Looking at the preferences among key groups, the most important has to be independents and Obama has a slim 43 percent-38 percent advantage.
Obama has had a single-digit edge among independents for the last month.
Party loyalty is fairly balanced. Obama receives the backing of 89 percent of Democrats and McCain has 88 percent of Republicans.
A little more than one of 10 says they registered to vote in the last two years and these new voters give a nice boost to the Democrat -- 57 percent are backing Obama to 41 percent for McCain-- unchanged from earlier polling.
Obama leads McCain by 50-43 percent among women. Al Gore won women by 11 percentage points and John Kerry won them by 3 points. White women back McCain 52-40 percent. In 2000, white women backed Bush by a razor-thin 1 point margin and by 11-points in 2004.
Among men, Obama leads by 50-43 percent. Bush won men by 11 points in both 2000 and 2004. And while McCain is favored among white men by 5 points, that is a much narrower margin than Bush's 25-point win among this group in 2004.
McCain narrowly leads Obama, 49-44 percent, among white Catholics. And married women, another key-voting group, go 48-44 percent for McCain. In 2004, Bush won white Catholics by 13 points and married women by 11 points.
Obama's lead among those who say they have already voted has almost disappeared. He has a 1-point edge -- just 48-47 percent -- in this latest poll, down from a 52-43 percent lead previously (Oct 28-29).
Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 971 likely voters for FOX News from November 1 to November 2. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
"Obama appears poised to win the popular vote on the message of change that has underpinned his candidacy from the beginning. Although highly unlikely given the greater enthusiasm among Obama supporters, the one plausible path to victory for McCain would be much higher turnout among white men than anyone is anticipating, and much lower turnout among newly registered voters," says Opinion Dynamics Corporation Vice President Chris Anderson.
"There are no longer enough undecided voters to make a difference--the persuasion phase of the campaign is over. These last remaining hours of the campaign are all about motivating supporters and getting them to the polls," Anderson said.
Voters have made it clear they want change. When asked what they are looking for in a candidate, those saying someone who can "bring about needed change" tops the list with 28 percent, followed by "shares my values" with 26 percent. A candidate with the "right experience" trails in third with 17 percent.
This desire for change helps Obama, as 55 percent think he can bring the right kind of change to Washington and 52 percent say that McCain cannot.
By a wide 26-point margin McCain outperforms Obama as having the right experience to be president. This fails to help McCain as less than one in five voters says this is their top priority.
Voters view both candidates positively. Obama has a 59 percent favorable rating and McCain is rated favorably by 56 percent. Among independents, McCain's 62 percent favorable is slightly higher than the 55 percent who say they have a positive view of Obama.
Undoubtedly there is more intensity among voters favoring Obama. Fully 88 percent of his backers say they support him "strongly." Among McCain's backers, 78 percent support him "strongly."
In addition, 65 percent of Obama supporters say it is "extremely" important to them that their candidate wins, while 59 percent of McCain supporters say the same.
Nearly half of Americans (49 percent) say the economy will be the most important issue in deciding their vote for president. That is a large part of what makes this race an uphill battle for McCain, as more voters trust Obama to handle the economy by an 11-point margin (52 percent - 41 percent).
Furthermore, Obama bests McCain on which candidate people trust more to handle all the domestic issues -- by 17 points on health care, by 11 points on energy independence, and point 7 points on taxes. McCain is preferred on handling the war on terrorism by 8 points and by a slim 3-point margin on Iraq.
Voters think McCain would respond better than Obama to a "test" by foreign governments or terrorists in the first six months of his president.
More Americans would be comfortable with Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden stepping in as president if it were to become necessary than with Republican Sarah Palin. Nearly half (47 percent) say they would be "extremely" or "very" comfortable with Biden and 51 percent would be uncomfortable. For Palin, 32 percent would be "extremely" or "very" comfortable if she had to step in and serve as president and 67 percent would be uncomfortable.
Among independents, 43 percent would be comfortable with Biden and 28 percent with Palin.
Three of four Democrats (74 percent) would be comfortable with Biden as president. For comparison, 62 percent of Republicans would be comfortable with Palin stepping in as president.
A 56 percent majority has a favorable opinion of Biden and 37 percent unfavorable.
Palin now has an overall negative rating, as slightly more voters have an unfavorable view of her (49 percent) than have a favorable one (45 percent).