Public Policy Polling reports:
Barr receives 6% of the vote in possible match ups [in North Carolina] with both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. Obama trails John McCain 43-40, while Clinton trails him 39-34.
Barr’s strength is with independent voters, with whom he pulls 9-12%. PPP’s previous North Carolina survey had found voters describing themselves as independents strongly inclined toward McCain....
“It’s a long way until the election but the early indication is that Bob Barr’s presence on the ballot could be a good sign for whoever ends up as the Democratic nominee,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “He’s likely to siphon off more voters who would otherwise be inclined to vote for McCain than he is from Clinton or Obama.”
PPP surveyed 543 likely voters on May 28th and 29th. The survey’s margin of error is +/- 4.2%. Other factors, such as refusal to be interviewed and weighting, may introduce additional error that is more difficult to quantify.
I should stress that "it's a long way until the election" part, since much depends on what the candidates (and especially McCain) say and do to woo the Bob Barr voters. And it's one thing to say you'll vote for a candidate who's sure not to win, and another thing to actually do it: To my knowledge, there's solid evidence that many voters prefer to vote for the winner, precisely because they like the feeling of having backed a winner, and voting for Barr is a sure way of not voting for the winner. I should also stress that the really interesting question is how Barr will poll in battleground states, which I expect North Carolina probably won't be, despite the relatively modest margin in McCain's favor compared to Obama or Clinton. (Note that North Carolina has voted Republican in every election since 1980.) Still, 6% is pretty high for a Libertarian candidate, so it struck me as worth mentioning.
None of this, by the way, is meant as an endorsement or criticism of Barr (note that I'm backing McCain myself), as an endorsement or criticism of the desire to vote for a winner, or as an endorsement or criticism of anything else; I'm just reporting on a poll that seemed surprising to me.