A new study to be released by Project New America on Wednesday, just before the first presidential debate in Denver, shows that a strong majority of undecided voters in western states are waiting to make their decision about which candidate to vote for until after the debates.
The PNA survey shows that 73 percent of undecided voters in Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico plan on watching the debates, but what's more telling is that 80 percent of the undecided voters surveyed said they would not be making their decision until at least three weeks before election day and 59 percent said they would likely make their decision in the final week of the election. Meaning a potentially large swath of voters in key states are still up for grabs and all four debates could shift momentum toward either candidate in the race which, according to the latest polling, remains tight in the western states.
"With nearly three out of four western undecided voters watching the debates, it's crucial for Mitt Romney to use this platform to prove to voters he's someone they can trust," Jill Hanauer, President of Project New America, said to The Huffington Post. "That's a tall task, given where his numbers currently stand."
President Obama holds a nine-point lead over Romney in New Mexico and, according to the HuffPost Pollster model, is considered to be a "strong" Obama state. The president holds only a four-point lead over the Republican challenger in both Colorado and Nevada, which just "lean" toward the president. Romney holds a six-point lead in Arizona and is considered a "strong" Romney state.
The fact that undecided voters in these states are waiting to decide could be good news for both candidates, but perhaps especially for Mitt Romney whose 47 percent remarks were not well received by undecided western voters, according to the PNA study.
PNA asked undecided voters in Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico this question:
Recently Mitt Romney said quote "47% are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it." Based on everything you've heard about this 47% comment, does this make you more likely to vote for Mitt Romney, less likely to vote for Mitt Romney, or does it make no difference?
To which 32 percent said the comments make them less likely to vote for Romney, while only 16 percent said the statements make them more likely to vote for him. Perhaps most encouraging for the GOP candidate is that 53 percent said the comments do not make a difference to them. But the 32 percent that said they are less likely to vote for Romney due to the comments could be a crucial percentage in states like Colorado and Nevada where the race appears very tight.
The HuffPost Pollster model, tracking 29 polls, shows Obama leading Romney in Colorado 48.6 to 45 percent:
In Nevada, Pollster's tracking of 21 polls shows Obama leading Romney 49.5 to 45 percent:
Pollster's tracking 18 polls in Arizona shows Romney with a strong lead over Obama, 49.8 to 43.7 percent:
In New Mexico, Pollster's tracking of 14 polls shows Obama with a strong lead over Romney, 51.3 to 41.3 percent:
The data about undecided voters comes from a larger online survey PNA conducted consisting of over 4,500 interviews with a sample of 503 undecided voters across Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. On Wednesday afternoon, PNA will release the full report detailing the demographics of the undecided voters, what they are looking for from the candidates and how they will ultimately make their decision.