Poll: Obama Leads; Interest In Debate High

generic poll data polling numbers Barck Obama John McCain
With 40 days left until the election, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama leads GOP rival John McCain 47 percent to 42 percent among registered voters in a new CBS News/New York Times poll. The five-point difference mirrors the findings in a CBS/NYT poll last week. Likely voters also favor Obama by five points, 48 percent to 43 percent.

Three in ten registered voters say they are uncommitted to a candidate, up from 26 percent last week.

Interest in tomorrow's scheduled first presidential debate is high. Sixty-four percent of registered voters say they are "very likely" to watch the debate, which McCain has proposed delaying so that the candidates can focus on the financial crisis. Obama has said the debate should go on as planned. Less than one in ten registered voters say they are not likely to watch the debate.

The poll was conducted between Sept. 21st and Sept. 24th, largely before McCain proposed delaying the debate and announced that he was suspending his campaign.

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The Presidential Race
The Economy
Foreign Policy

Enthusiasm for both candidates has cooled, though Obama still holds a significant edge over his rival. Fifty-three percent of Obama supporters support the Democratic nominee enthusiastically, down eight points from last week. Thirty-six percent of McCain supporters back their candidate enthusiastically, a drop of 11 points from last week.

Obama leads McCain with women, moderates, Democrats, and younger voters. Sixty-one percent of those who voted for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary back the Illinois senator, while one in four former Clinton supporters back McCain.

McCain has the edge with men, conservatives, and whites, including white men and white Catholics. The race is even among white women.

Independents now break to the GOP nominee 43 percent to 39 percent. This swing group has lived up to its name: Obama had a five point edge with Independents last week, while McCain was winning their support after the GOP convention.

Though Friday's debate is scheduled to focus on foreign policy, voters appear to be more interested in domestic economic issues. Asked what they hope to learn from the debate, 18 percent said they want to learn about the candidates' plans for the economy; just 4 percent cited the war in Iraq, and even fewer pointed to foreign policy more generally. The top issue cited, at 29 percent, was the all-encompassing "positions on the issues."

Nearly half of uncommitted voters say the debates will have a great deal of influence on their vote in November.

Perception Of The Candidates:

Registered voters are generally more confident in Obama when it comes to handling the economy and McCain when it comes to handling terrorism, though majority of voters are at least somewhat confident in either candidate's abilities to deal with the two issues.

Nonetheless, the poll results when it comes to the economy - overwhelmingly cited as voters' top concern - could portend trouble for the GOP nominee.

Forty-five percent of registered voters are "not confident" in McCain's ability to handle the economy. That's 11 points higher than the 34 percent who are "not confident" in Obama on the economy. Just 17 percent are "very confident" in McCain's ability to handle the economy, 12 points fewer than the 29 percent who are "very confident" in Obama.

McCain holds a clear edge when it comes to terrorism, however. Forty percent of registered voters are "very confident" that he would make the right decisions when it comes to terrorism, 12 points higher than Obama; just 23 percent are "not confident" in McCain on the issue, 14 points fewer than say the same of Obama.

Nearly two-in-three voters worry McCain would be too quick to use military force in dealing with other countries; a slightly higher percentage worry Obama would be too slow to use force.

A majority believe McCain cares more about protecting corporations, while 70 percent say Obama cares more about protecting ordinary people.

McCain is more widely seen as ready to be president, with 62 percent saying the GOP nominee is ready versus 46 percent for Obama. McCain is also seen as more likely to be an effective commander-in-chief.

Obama is more widely perceived as understanding voters' needs and problems - nearly 2 in 3 voters say Obama does so, versus about half for McCain - and as more likely to improve the U.S. image around the world.

Obama's favorable rating now stands at 43 percent, down two points from last week; his unfavorable rating stands at 30 percent, down five points. McCain's favorable rating has slipped six points since last week to 38 percent. His unfavorable rating stands at 35 percent.

Both Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin continue to receive net overall positive ratings, though Palin is more familiar to voters. Biden's favorable rating is 33 percent, down 5 points from last week, while his unfavorable rating is 17 percent; half of those surveyed said they didn't know enough about Biden to have an opinion or were undecided.

Palin's favorable rating is 37 percent, a slight decline from last week, while her unfavorable rating is 29 percent.

Women are split on the Alaska governor, with 34 percent viewing her favorably, 33 percent unfavorably, and the remainder undecided or not sure. Thirty-eight percent of white women have a favorable opinion of Palin, while 45 percent of white women with a college degree have an unfavorable opinion of her.