Watch CBSN Live

Poll: Obama Leads; Interest In Debate High

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.

Read The Complete Poll:
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.

The Economic Crisis:

Americans are divided about whether or not the government should provide assistance to Wall Street companies. Forty-two percent approve of the government's plan to give money to financial institutions to help them get out of the financial crisis, while 46 percent disapprove.

The sentiments cross party lines - 43 percent of Republicans approve, as do 41 percent of Democrats and 42 percent of independents. Americans making $75,000 or more are more likely to approve of the plan.

When told specifically that the Bush administration's plan would provide $700 billion to financial service companies that have made extensive bad investments, lost money and are in danger of going bankrupt, four in ten don't know enough about it to express an opinion. Among those with an opinion, views are more negative than positive. Just 16 percent think it's a good idea, while more than twice as many, 38 percent, think it's a bad idea.

Nearly half of those surveyed blame bad management by banks for the crisis, while 27 percent blame lack of government supervision and 17 percent blame a combination of the two. Republicans are more apt than Democrats to blame poor management instead of poor government oversight.

More then four in ten Americans think there is too little regulation of business, a figure that is higher than in previous CBS News Polls. Roughly two in ten say there is two much regulation, while 18 percent say there is the proper amount.

Even 34 percent of Republicans think the government regulates business too little these days.

A majority of Americans support a proposal, put forth by some Democrats, to help homeowners having trouble paying their mortgages as part of the government program to help Wall Street. Roughly one in three oppose such a proposal.

More than half of voters say that the economy and jobs are the issues that will be most important in deciding which candidate to support for president, up four points from ten days ago. Terrorism and national security is a distant second, at 11 percent, followed closely by gas prices and energy, health care and the war in Iraq.

Among voters who say the economy will be the most important issue in their vote, Obama has a nearly twenty percentage point lead over McCain.

Just 17 percent of Americans say the condition of the economy is even somewhat good; zero percent think it is very good. Nearly half say the economy is in very bad shape, the highest percentage ever in a CBS News Poll. Seventy percent of Americans say the economy is getting worse, while just 2 percent say it is improving.

Nearly half of homeowners claim to have been affected by falling house prices, and 48 percent of homeowners with mortgages are concerned about being able to pay their mortgages.

One in 5 Americans say that overall they are having trouble making ends meet, and just under half are just getting by.

Foreign Policy And The Campaign:

Americans are divided on their views about Iraq: Forty-six percent say things are going well there, while 51 percent say things are going badly. McCain voters are significantly more likely to view the situation in Iraq positively than Obama voters.

President George W. Bush's approval rating when it comes to foreign policy remains low. Just 26 percent approve of how Mr. Bush is handling foreign policy, while nearly two in three disapprove.

Fifty-eight percent of registered voters think McCain would generally continue the president's foreign policies. One in three say he would move in a different direction.

More Americans today volunteer Iran as a serious threat to the United States than any other country. Iran was cited by 21 percent of those surveyed, followed by China at 12 percent, Russia at 8 percent, and Iraq at 6 percent.

In April 2003, after U.S. forces seized Baghdad, Iran was chosen by virtually no one: The top country then was North Korea, cited by 39 percent, which in this survey was cited by just 4 percent of respondents.

Just one in ten Americans believes Iran requires military action now, however; sixty-one percent say the threat posed by the country can be contained with diplomacy.

Nearly three in four Americans say it is a good idea for the president to meet with leaders of unfriendly nations; 20 percent say it is a bad idea.

Only 15 percent of Americans believe the United States should try to change a dictatorship to a democracy when it can. A slim majority of those surveyed think the U.S. will be safer in the long run if it stays out of other countries' affairs in the Middle East.

Forty-four percent of Americans say the troop surge is making things better in Iraq, down 6 points from last week. Eleven percent say the surge is making things worse, while 33 percent say it is having no impact.

Majorities of Americans believe that the United States did not do the right thing by going to war with Iraq and that the Bush administration focused too much on Iraq over Afghanistan. Fifty-five percent of Americans believe things are now going badly in Afghanistan, while 31 percent believe things are going well. Assessment of how things are going for the U.S. in Afghanistan has deteriorated dramatically in the last seven years.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue