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Poll of Western undecideds shows import of Denver debate

October 03, 2012|By Mark Z. Barabak
  • President Obama steps off Air Force One upon arrival in Denver for the first presidential debate.
President Obama steps off Air Force One upon arrival in Denver for the first… (Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty…)

DENVER -- Need more hype? Still convinced tonight's first presidential debate won't matter?

A newly released survey of undecided voters in four Western states -- two of them battlegrounds -- suggests the import the University of Denver matchup has for those still persuadables.

More than seven in 10 respondents in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico said they would tune in for the 90-minute session, belying the image of undecideds as inattentive or turned off by politics. Fully 76% of those surveyed said they would definitely vote Nov. 6 and more than four in 10 said the debates would have the single greatest influence on their decision.

(Some 83% have attended at least some college, also contrary to the notion that undecideds are a not-terribly-bright bunch.)

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 One of the more striking findings of the poll by Project New America, a Democratic research group, was the characteristic most important to the undecideds: They want someone they can trust, an attribute cited by 39% of those polled. By contrast, 28% cited the ability to improve the economy and create jobs, which has traditionally been the biggest issue among voters in other surveys. Only 10% said the most important characteristic was having a candidate agree with their stand on issues.

Mike Melanson, a Democratic strategist who helped elect Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, said undecided voters tend to see both sides of issues, abhor partisanship and seek a candidate who feels the same way.

"They want to find who is that authentic character," Melanson said.

Broken down by demographics and political views, 81% of the undecideds were white, 72% were self-described moderates, 66% were independents and 59% were women.

The poll of 503 undecideds was based on interviews with 4,588 people, conducted online Sept. 19-23.

Of the states surveyed, New Mexico appears safely in President Obama's column, Nevada and Colorado are more competitive and Arizona is leaning in Mitt Romney's direction.

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mark.barabak@latimes.com

Twitter: @markzbarabak

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