Nearly six in 10 likely voters think President Barack Obama will win the upcoming debates against Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, according to a CNN/ORC International poll released Tuesday.
Fifty-nine percent of likely voters said they believed Obama will win the debates, while just 34 percent said Romney would prevail. In 2008, voters predicted Obama would best John McCain by a similar margin, according to Keating Holland, CNN's polling director.
More than 90 percent of Democrats said Obama would win the 2012 debates, while 75 percent of Republicans believed Romney would win.
Still, what impact the presidential debates will actually have on the election is unclear. According to an August CNN/ORC poll, 57 percent of adults said the debates were very important, ranking the events above choice of running mate, convention speeches, or advertising.
But political scientist John Sides argues that, if history is any indication, debate performances are unlikely to change the outcome of the election:
That presidential debates can be “game changers” is a belief almost universally held by political pundits and strategists. Political scientists, however, aren’t so sure. Indeed, scholars who have looked most carefully at the data have found that, when it comes to shifting enough votes to decide the outcome of the election, presidential debates have rarely, if ever, mattered.
A total of three presidential debates and one vice-presidential debate are scheduled for this October.
The CNN poll was conducted via telephone between Sept. 7 and 9 and surveyed 1,022 adults across the country, including 875 registered voters and 709 likely voters. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent for likely voters and 3 percent overall.