On the eve of their first debate, President Barack Obama holds a slight lead over Republican Mitt Romney in Florida among likely voters, according to a new survey released on Tuesday.
The latest Suffolk University-WSVN poll has the president ahead by 3 percentage points – 46 to 43 percent, with 7 percent undecided – among 600 likely voters surveyed Sept. 27-30.
The poll has a 4 percent margin of error. It mirrors the results of other surveys of Sunshine State voters, which have shown Obama leading the former Massachusetts governor by as little as 1 point to as many as 9 points.
“On the eve of the first debate, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney know the importance of each percentage point in a state like Florida,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “Not only are the remaining undecided voters critical, but so are the voters of all the third-party candidates here – and there are many.”
The Suffolk University-WSVN poll is the first Florida survey taken this year to include all 12 of the Presidential party candidates who qualified for the Florida ballot.
For instance, the survey found that Libertarian Gary Johnson, Green Party nominee Jill Stein, and actress and Peace and Freedom Party nominee Roseanne Barr were each favored by 1 percent of the voters surveyed.
One or more voters, but fewer than 1 percent, chose Peta Lindsay (Party for Socialism and Liberation), Tom Hoefling (American Independent Party) or Ross C. “Rocky” Anderson (Justice Party of Florida).
In the race for U.S. Senate, the incumbent, Democrat Bill Nelson remains ahead of GOP challenger Connie Mack, 40 to 34 percent, and with challengers Chris Borgia holding 4 percent and Bill Gaylor 1 percent.
Twenty percent of Florida’s likely voters surveyed said they were undecided in that race.
In the presidential race, Romney continues to struggle with his likability, Paleologos said. His 45 percent favorable rating is 3 points higher than in a survey the Suffolk University Political Research Center conducted in May; yet his unfavorable rating is also up 2 points, to 47 percent today.
Obama has been consistently more popular, with a 51 percent favorable and 46 percent unfavorable rating, Paleologos said.
But Floridians expect the debates to be no contest, with 52 percent of likely voters responding that Obama will prove to be the better debater, 19 percent saying Romney will prevail – and 26 percent remaining undecided.
“This ‘debate expectations’ finding mirrors last Thursday’s Suffolk University poll of likely Virginia voters, who also said Obama was a better debater by more than a 2-to-1 margin,” Paleologos said.
“Voters in these key battleground states are teeing up for Romney to exceed low expectations and close the gap. “But if Obama lives up to his billing, he could put the race away,”
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