WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mitt Romney’s strong debate performance did little to convince more voters he understands them or is a “good person” even though he has narrowed President Barack Obama’s overall poll lead, according to a Reuters/Ipsos survey released on Saturday.
Just a month before the November 6 election, the Democratic president is ahead of his Republican challenger on character attributes that can win over undecided voters who have not been swayed on policy points.
Romney gained in a few areas, but not at Obama’s expense despite the incumbent’s lackluster performance in the first presidential debate on Wednesday.
On the broad question of who they will vote for in November, Obama kept his slim 2 percentage point lead over Romney among likely voters - 47 to 45 percent - in the online survey.
The gap was unchanged from Friday, when Obama led by 46 to 44 percent in the tracking poll. His lead was 6 percentage points before the two men first went head-to-head in Denver.
“We haven’t seen additional gains from Romney. This suggests to me that this is more of a bounce than a permanent shift,” Ipsos pollster Julia Clark said.
The poll did not show Obama backers shifting to Romney. Rather, Romney’s small gains on a few of the issues came from people who had been undecided.
Obama even gained ground in some voters’ assessment of his character since before the debate, even though a majority - 55 to 23 percent - felt Romney did a better job during the encounter in Denver, the survey showed.
Forty-seven percent of registered voters deemed Obama “a good person,” compared with 31 percent who felt that way about Romney. In a similar survey on September 28, Obama led by 43 percent to Romney’s 32 percent.
Obama held his ground on a range of such questions. Far more voters (53 to 29 percent) deemed Obama likeable than feel the same way about Romney. He also leads by a healthy margin (43 to 37 percent) on who has the right values to be president.
In addition, 43 percent felt Obama “understands people like me,” compared with 31 percent who felt that way about Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and wealthy businessman who has struggled to connect with average Americans.
“There’s still a ways to go to close the gap between him and Obama on some of these important attributes,” Clark said. “This suggests to me that while the debate was effective in energizing the Republican base and giving Romney a boost, it didn’t fundamentally change perceptions of either man a great deal.”
Romney made some gains. He was up 4 percentage points when voters were asked if he is eloquent, compared with the survey released on September 28. But he still lags well behind, with Obama leading 48 percent to 27 percent.
Romney also gained 3 percentage points on the questions of who is tough enough to be president and fun to meet in person. Obama still leads on both, with a 42 to 38 percent edge on the toughness question and a striking 48 to 24 percent advantage on who would be fun to meet.
Ratings of the two men were generally tighter on issues more closely linked to the nuts and bolts of governing. They were tied with the support of just over a third of voters - 37 percent - on the question of who can be effective in Washington.
About a third - 34 percent - of registered voters picked Obama as stronger on the issue of bipartisanship than the roughly one quarter - 27 percent - who opted for Romney.
The online survey of 1,770 registered voters and 1,492 likely voters was conducted from October 2-6.
The precision of the Reuters/Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points for registered voters and 2.9 for likely voters.
For the question of bipartisanship, which was added to the survey on Wednesday night, the credibility interval is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, with an interview base of 1,323 registered voters.
Editing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Will Dunham