The State Of The Race In The Debate Lead-Up

October 04, 2012, 12:30 PM GMT+0

(Week of 9/29/2012) On the cusp of last night’s first Presidential debate, results from the latest Economist/YouGov Poll (conducted between Saturday, September 29th and Monday, October 1st) show President Barack Obama maintaining a lead over challenger Mitt Romney. 49% of likely voters said they would vote or were leaning towards voting for the President; 44% supported Romney.

7% were either unsure or claimed they would vote for someone else, with undecided voters most heavily concentrated among those aged 30-44. Independents were also more likely to be in this group, as were Hispanics, a target of both campaigns. In addition, 9% of those who indicated their preference for a candidate said their minds could change — independents and 30-44 year olds were most likely to say this.

So there was room for the debates to make a difference. And many Americans indicated they thought they would.

More than four in ten voters said the debates would affect the outcome of the election, and another 27% weren’t sure. And Romney supporters, whose candidate is lagging in the polls, were even more likely to think the debates would make a difference.

The President’s lead in the polls (and in respondents’ predictions of who will eventually win the election, where the President held a nearly three-to-one advantage) extended to expectations of who will do the better job in tonight’s debate. More registered voters believed the President would win the first debate than thought Romney would. Obama supporters were more hopeful: 70% of them said the President would win; nearly 60% of Romney voters thought their candidate would.

But did the right people watch last night? More than eight in ten registered voters say they would watch the debate, with Romney voters and Obama voters equally likely to say so. However, intended viewership was much lower among those who had yet to make up their minds between the two candidates, and who could be most affected by the outcome.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here

Photo source: Press Association