Denver (CNN) – Hours before the first debate between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, a showdown that will focus on domestic issues, a new national survey indicates that Americans have undergone some major changes on the basic questions concerning the size and role of the federal government.
And according to a CNN/ORC International poll, the public expects a split decision, with a majority saying that Obama will win the presidential showdowns but that Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP running mate, will win the one vice presidential debate.
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The survey, released Wednesday, indicates that there have been major changes on attitudes toward the government.
"The biggest: The number of Americans who say that the government should promote traditional values has fallen to an all-time low, a finding that might benefit many Democrats," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
According to the survey, just four in 10 registered voters believe the government should promote traditional values, down from 53% in 2010 and 57% in 2008.
"Between 1993, when CNN began asking that question, and last year, a majority of respondents have always said that the government should promote traditional values. Now, for the first time, more than half say the government should not favor any particular set of values," adds Holland.
But the poll also indicates the belief that the government is doing too much is also near historically high levels.
Six in 10 say the government is doing too much that should be left to individuals and businesses. That finding could favor Republicans.
As for the showdowns, 56% of likely voters say the president is likely to do a better job in the three presidential debates, the first of which will be held Wednesday in Denver - with 32% saying that Romney will have the upper hand.
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The new numbers on which presidential candidate will win the debates are in-line with a previous CNN poll, which asked the same question in early September, and the results are very similar to other surveys released this week by other organizations.
Next week Vice President Joe Biden and Ryan face off in Danville, Kentucky, in the only vice presidential debate.
The CNN poll indicates that 55% say the Wisconsin congressman will win, with 39% saying that Biden will come out victorious.
What is the issue that worries Americans the most?
Nearly half of registered voters questioned say the economy is the most important issue facing the country today - not surprising when nearly three quarters say the economy is in poor shape.
The economy is followed at a great distance by the federal budget deficit (15%), health care (12%), and education (10%).
"You have to get way down the list before any foreign policy issues appear, and fewer than one in 20 pick Afghanistan or terrorism as the number-one issue," says Holland.
Which economic issue is the biggest concern to most Americans?
Forty-four percent say unemployment is the top economic problem; the federal budget is in second place with 28%.
Although more than seven in 10 say the economy is in "somewhat poor" or "very poor" shape, there are signs of optimism about achieving the "American dream."
In 2010, 19% of registered voters said they would never achieve the American dream. That figure has dropped to 12% now; with 44% of voters say they have achieved the American dream and 42% say they will do so eventually.
The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International from Sept. 28-30, with 1,013 adults nationwide, including 883 registered voters and 783 likely voters questioned by telephone.
The surveys' overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points, with a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for questions of registered or likely voters.
CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this story
Obama will win the left side and Romney will win the right side. both party's will say that they won.
I cant wait to hear all the lies that come out of their mouth's tonight and watch people suck them up like little brainless vacuum cleaners.
Yeah, they say this about the government being too big and is doing too much now, but wait until they are in need, due to the run away greed and corruption practices of the private sector. Without a short leash, will again run amuck and america, yet again, will go spiraling into the abyss of social darkness and economic despair. And yet again, we will blame everything on the government for not being there to keep a close watch on corporate raiders like this Romney guy, thus preventing, yet again, another economic melt down. In the words of Herman Cain, "Here We Go Again"
Mitt job creation ranked 47/50 in Mass as governor–do these guys ask this too??? If not ask
Obama's promises of a smaller government , was one of many broken promises he made in 2008. He has not take responsiblity of his actions as President, he contines, along with his administration, to blame Bush. We Americans need change in a positive way that all American benefit by, not justt union workers, freind and donors of Obama. When he stated that he was the President of alll Americans, he forgot that wealthy people are also Americans and give more in taxes, to the less fortunate. Obama wants to promote the redistrabution factor, so that all funds go to the government and the government decides who gets what and when and why. Sound familiar, they did that in Russia under Stalin.
The conservatives say they don't like government and we can use cantor in the house as a prime example , when his home state of virginity asked for flood aid ,his answer was we need. To take the money from. Some other area of the budget and put all kinds of strings attached to it ,before he could give aid to his own state . Is that the kind of representation you want in a disaster and need help while this loser cantor sits in his office in
Dc getting his 200,,000 paycheck and free healthcare while he leads the charge to keep you from having the healthcare you need and trying to get rid of soc sec and Medicare .these gop stooges need to be kicked out of office so we can have a functioning government again !!!!!!