In a new Pew Research Center poll, taken after the debate, Mitt Romney is at 49 percent, four points ahead of President Obama, among likely voters. The partisan breakdown is unusual in that Republicans have the advantage: The sample is 36 percent Republican, 31 percent Democrat, and 30 percent independent. And while Republican enthusiasm is certainly high this year, there is no precedent in the past 28 years of exit polls of Republicans having a five-point advantage over Democrats. The best year for the GOP was 2002, when Republicans had a two-point advantage over Democrats. Even in 2010, a terrific year for the GOP, Democrats and Republican went to the polls in equal percentages.
UPDATE: When it comes to the debate itself, Romney is viewed by 72 percent of independents as having done the better job, while a mere 14 percent think Obama did better.
And the poll also shows GOP enthusiasm increasing, as did the Politico/GWU poll this morning:
More generally, the poll finds Romney’s supporters far more engaged in the campaign than they were in September. Fully 82% say they have given a lot of thought to the election, up from 73% in September. The new survey finds that Romney supporters hold a 15-point advantage over Obama backers on this key engagement measure. Supporters on both sides were about even in September.
Romney’s favorability is rising, while Obama’s is slipping:
Coming out of the debate, Mitt Romney’s personal image has improved. His favorable rating has hit 50% among registered voters for the first time in Pew Research Center surveys and has risen five points since September. At the same time, Obama’s personal favorability rating has fallen from 55% to 49%.
Romney and Obama are tied among women:
In the presidential horserace, Romney has made sizable gains over the past month among women voters, white non-Hispanics and those younger than 50. Currently, women are evenly divided (47% Obama, 47% Romney). Last month, Obama led Romney by 18 points (56% to 38%) among women likely voters.
And when it comes to who would care about the middle class, Obama and Romney are almost tied: 50 percent think Obama’s policies would help middle class, while 49 percent think Romney’s would.