WASHINGTON – On the eve of their second debate, President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney remain locked in a virtual dead heat nationally, with Republicans showing increased enthusiasm for their nominee after his big win in the first debate, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Likely voters in the new poll split 49 percent for Obama to 46 percent for Romney, basically unmoved from the poll two weeks ago, just before the two candidates met in Denver for their first debate. On topic after topic, the survey portrays an electorate that remains deeply divided along partisan lines and locked in its views.
Nearly two-thirds say they do not need 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 to his benefit. 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. 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 risen.
The telephone poll was conducted Oct. 10-13 among a random national sample of 1,252 adults. Results for the full sample of 1,063 registered voters are plus or minus 3.5 percentage points; they are also 3.5 points for the 923 likely voters.