Monmouth U Poll: second debate didn’t nullify Obama’s self-inflicted damage

The latest Monmouth University Poll of voters nationwide shows Mitt Romney holding on to a three-point lead over Barack Obama in next month’s presidential race.  The GOP challenger continued to make gains in every issue area after the second debate. 

Currently, Romney leads the incumbent by 48% to 45% among likely American voters.  Following the first debate earlier this month, Romney held a one-point lead.  The current results mark a reversal from Monmouth’s mid-September poll when President Obama held a 48% to 45% advantage in vote intention.  Currently, 3% of likely voters say they will vote for another candidate and 5% are still undecided about their choice – results which have held steady since June. 

About 12% of the poll’s likely voter sample reports they have already cast their presidential ballot in early voting.  Among this group, Romney got 44% of the vote to 41% for Obama – an edge which is within the margin of error for this sub-group. 

“The debates changed the dynamic of this race.  While many observers feel the president won the second meeting, it did not erase the damage incurred by the first one.  And it’s not clear whether tonight’s final debate on foreign policy can alter that,” said Patrick Murray, director of the New Jersey-based Monmouth University Polling Institute. 

The election remains particularly tight among female voters, with Obama earning 49% of this group’s vote to 45% for Romney.  This is similar to the Monmouth University Poll’s split among women voters earlier this month.  Prior to the first debate, though, the Democratic incumbent enjoyed a double-digit lead among women.  Gov. Romney holds a sizable 51% to 40% lead among male voters right now. 

The Republican nominee is trusted more to handle a range of issues.  His biggest advantage is on the federal budget and national debt.  More than half (51%) of likely voters trust Romney on this issue compared to 42% who prefer Obama.  This marks a gain from the 48% to 44% edge Romney had earlier this month.  Prior to that, voters were split on which candidate would better handle the deficit and debt. 

Romney’s advantage on jobs and the economy has also grown since the second debate.  He has an edge over Obama on this issue – 50% trust the challenger to do a better job and 44% prefer the incumbent.  This is up from his narrower 49% to 45% lead after the first debate.  Romney has also pulled ahead on Social Security and Medicare, claiming a narrow 48% to 45% edge on this issue.  After the first debate, likely voters were split – 46% trusted Obama more to 45% who preferred Romney – but earlier in the fall, Obama had a distinct advantage on this issue. 

Romney also draws even with Obama on foreign policy – 46% of likely voters trust the Republican more on this issue compared to 47% who favor the Democrat.  This is similar to the 45% Romney to 47% Obama split recorded after the first debate and an improvement for Romney since mid-September.

More than half of likely voters (56%) report watching the entire second debate and another 24% watched part of it, which is slightly less than the number of likely voters who reported watching the first debate.  Seven percent of likely voters report that the debate caused them to have a change of heart about which candidate they would support – compared to 9% after the first debate.  Among this group, 57% now declare themselves for Romney to 32% for Obama.  After the first debate, those who changed their mind went for Romney by a larger 73% to 18% margin.

Mitt Romney’s personal ratings also continue to improve, standing at 49% favorable to 39% unfavorable among likely voters.  This builds on the 46% positive to 39% negative ratings he received after the first debate.  Prior to that event, voters were almost evenly divided on their ratings of the GOP nominee. 

Voter opinion of Barack Obama has been almost evenly divided throughout the entire campaign.  The current results show little change.  The Democratic incumbent holds a 45% favorable to 45% unfavorable rating. 

Voters shifted their opinion about the two running mates since the vice presidential candidates debated on Oct. 11.  Republican Paul Ryan now earns a 45% favorable to 34% unfavorable rating, up from 38% positive to 33% negative in September.  Democrat Joe Biden’s rating is upside down at 37% favorable to 46% unfavorable, a larger net negative gap than the 34% favorable to 39% unfavorable rating he held last month.           

The latest Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone with 1,402 likely voters in the United States from Oct. 18 to 21, 2012.  This sample has a margin of error of + 2.6 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch.

 

"He’s obviously working very, very hard at it. I mean he’s traveling all over the country as chairman of the [Republican Governors Association] and I think at this point he has as good a chance or better than anybody else. His name is household word all across the country, and I think he would make a great president."
—former U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton (R-3), on Gov. Chris Christie