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CBS Poll: Presidential Race Tightens

In a sign that the race for president has returned to about where it was before the first presidential debate, the Obama-Biden ticket leads the McCain-Palin ticket 47 percent to 43 percent among registered voters in a new CBS News poll.

The Obama-Biden ticket led by a wider margin, nine percentage points, in a CBS News poll released last Wednesday, before Joe Biden and Sarah Palin faced off in the vice presidential debate. Obama-Biden led by five percentage points on Sept. 25.

In the new poll, the Democratic ticket leads by 3 percentage points, 48 percent to 45 percent, among likely voters.

Barack Obama holds a 20 point lead in terms of enthusiasm. Fifty-eight percent of Obama voters say they are very enthusiastic about their candidate, while only 38 percent of John McCain voters say the same about the Arizona senator.

Roughly one in five registered voters have yet to commit to a candidate, though they may lean towards one or the other.

Read The Complete CBS News Poll On The Presidential Race And The Debates
...And On The Bailout Plan, Congress And The President
Interest in tomorrow's presidential debate is high. Roughly two in three registered voters say they are "very likely" to watch the debate, about the same percentage who said they were very likely to watch the first presidential debate and the vice presidential debate.

A CBS News poll conducted last week showed that more uncommitted voters thought Obama won the first debate, and nearly half of all voters expect he will win this debate too. Just one in four expect McCain to win.

The Vice Presidential Debate:

Both Biden and Palin appear to have benefited from their performance in the vice presidential debate. Both now have 40 percent approval ratings - an increase of six points for Biden and eight points for Palin from their pre-debate approval ratings.

Palin's unfavorable rating of 32 percent is significantly higher, however, than Biden's 19 percent unfavorable rating. And on the key questions of whether each candidate is ready to be vice president, or, if necessary, president, majorities see only Biden as passing the test.

Seventy-five percent of registered voters say Biden is prepared to be vice president, and 65 percent say he could be an effective president; just 42 percent say Palin is prepared to be vice president and only 37 percent say she could be an effective president. Even Republicans are more likely than not to concede Biden could be an effective president.

As uncommitted voters did in a CBS News/Knowledge Networks poll conducted immediately after the debate, registered voters who watched the debate give the "win" to Biden, 50 percent to 31 percent.

Both Biden and Palin improved their overall images somewhat in the debate, and both are seen by about six in ten voters as sharing their values. About one in three registered voters say the vice presidential candidates will have a lot of influence on their vote in November, the same percentage that said as much before the debate.

The Top Of The Ticket:

Obama continues to lead McCain when it comes to his overall favorable/unfavorable rating: The Democratic nominee has a favorable rating of 46 percent and an unfavorable rating of 34 percent. Registered voters are more closely split on McCain, who holds a favorable rating of 40 percent and an unfavorable rating of 38 percent.

Sixty-two percent of registered voters see both Obama and McCain as having the ability to be an effective president.

McCain has distanced himself somewhat from President George W. Bush, who currently has among the lowest approval ratings of any modern president. In this poll, 38 percent say that if elected president McCain would generally continue Mr. Bush's policies, down from 46 percent last month. This is the lowest percentage to link McCain to the president's policies since last April.

Obama has lost some ground when it comes to perceptions of how he would handle the economy, though he still leads McCain when it comes to the issue.

Twenty-four percent of registered voters are "very confident" that the Democratic nominee would make the right decisions on the economy, down five points from before the presidential debate. Forty-one percent are not confident, up from 34 percent.

Fifteen percent are "very confident" in McCain when it comes to the economy, meanwhile, and 44 percent are not confident.

The race continues to be close among independents. In this poll McCain has a small edge, 44 percent to 39 percent, among the group. At the end of last week it was Obama with a small lead. Independents have swung back and forth between the two candidates for the last few weeks.

Obama is leading among Democrats, liberals, moderates and voters who supported Hillary Clinton in the primaries. He has not improved his support among former Clinton voters in recent weeks, and presently has the support of roughly two in three.

McCain is leading among Republicans, Independents and conservatives. He is also leading among whites, including both white Catholics and white evangelicals, as well as whites making less than $50,000 a year who do not have a college degree.

The Bailout Plan, Congress And The President:

Last week Congress enacted a financial rescue plan on its second try - and while Americans are more negative than ever about the state of the economy, a majority (51 percent) disapprove of the bailout package. Just 31 percent say they approve.

Americans continue to think Wall Street is more likely to benefit from the government's economic bailout than the rest of the country. Sixty-percent say the plan will just benefit Wall Street, while 30 percent say it will help everyone.

A majority of Americans now disapprove of the government providing money to financial institutions. A week ago Americans were evenly split on the question; now just 36 percent approve while 52 percent disapprove.

And even though a majority remains much more accepting of the idea of helping homeowners, even that number is down from last week, with 54 percent now approving and 37 percent disapproving.

Few Americans approve of how either the president or Congress is handling the financial crisis. Both receive identical 21 percent approval ratings on the measure.

Fifty-five percent now say the economy is in very bad shape - the highest number ever recorded in a CBS News Poll. Only 11 percent think the condition of the economy is even somewhat good.

Moreover, Americans remain pessimistic about the economy's future: three in four think the economy is getting worse. Only 3 percent think the economy is getting better, while one in five thinks it is staying the same.

President Bush's overall job approval rating is 22 percent - the same as it was last week and the lowest of his presidency. Congress also receives dismal overall ratings from the public. Only 15 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is handling its job, the same as last week. Seventy-two percent now disapprove of Congress' job, including a majority of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 957 adults nationwide, including 875 registered voters, interviewed by telephone October 3-5, 2008. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample and the sample of registered voters could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.
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