Nearly two-thirds say they do not need any more information before Election Day, and barely one in eight is undecided or says there is a chance he could change his vote. Even as voters overwhelmingly perceive that Romney won the first debate, the vast majority say their opinion of the president did not shift as a result.
But more people changed their views of Romney, largely in a positive direction. Overall, more than twice as many say their opinions of the former Massachusetts governor improved than say they worsened as a result of the debate. The strongest reaction is among Romney backers, 70 percent of whom say Denver made them think more highly of the GOP nominee.
The improvement in views of Romney carries directly into the underpinnings of his support: Fewer of his supporters now express anxiety about a Romney administration, and the number of his backers saying they support him “very enthusiastically” jumped by double digits. Among the likely voters supporting Romney, 62 percent now do so intensely, exactly double the number who were eagerly lined up behind Republican nominee John McCain at this stage in the campaign four years ago.
Meanwhile, enthusiasm for the president has also ticked higher, but it remains below where it was four years ago. Of course, at this time in October 2008, Obama held a 10-percentage-point lead over the Republican senator from Arizona. In the new poll, a three-point edge does not represent a statistically significant advantage.
Beyond enthusiasm, Obama lags behind 2008 in assembling a winning coalition because groups of voters highly likely to back his candidacy — including Democrats, non-whites and younger voters — are far less interested in the campaign this time around.
But the president is buoyed in the final stretch by improving attitudes about the direction of the country, although his fellow Democrats are the ones becoming more sanguine. Among all voters, 42 percent now say the country is headed in the right direction, yet another tick upward, and 13 percentage points higher than before the party conventions. Still, most — 56 percent — see things as pretty seriously on the wrong track.
Obama gets some credit — but little from Republicans — for one recent sign of improvement in the economy: the drop in the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent in September, breaking a record 43-month stretch above 8 percent. A slim majority of voters give him at least some credit for the decline, but less than one in four says he should get “a lot” of credit for it. Most Republicans, however, give him no credit at all for this, reflecting the big partisan divide on all matters.