New York, Oct.15 : A CBS News/New York Times survey reveals that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has opened up a 14-point lead between himself and Republican rival John McCain.
bama is entering the third and final presidential debate Wednesday with a wide lead over McCain nationally, the poll shows.
The Obama-Biden ticket now leads the McCain-Palin ticket 53 percent to 39 percent among likely voters. A week ago, that margin was just three points.
Among independents who are likely voters - a group that has swung back and forth between McCain and Obama over the course of the campaign - the Democratic ticket now leads by 18 points. McCain led among independents last week.
McCain's campaign strategy may be hurting hurt him, as twenty-one percent of voters say their opinion of the Republican has changed for the worse in the last few weeks.
The top two reasons cited for the change of heart are McCain's attacks on Obama and his choice of Sarah Palin as running mate.
Obama is widely seen as running the more positive campaign: Sixty-one percent of those surveyed say McCain is spending more time attacking his opponent than explaining what he would do as president. Just 27 percent say the same of Obama.
McCain's favorable rating has fallen four points from last week, to 36 percent, and is now lower than his 41 percent unfavorable rating. Half of the registered voters view Obama favorably, while 32 percent view him unfavorably.
Obama holds a considerable edge over his rival on having the right "personality and temperament" to be president, with 69 percent saying Obama does and 53 percent saying McCain does.
The Democratic nominee is also widely seen as more likely to make the right decision on the economy, far and away the top issue for voters, in a survey taken in the immediate aftermath of last week's historic Wall Street losses.
Opinions of the candidates could still change, and potential trouble spots remain for Obama, among them the fact that small percentages of voters cite Obama's past associations with Bill Ayers (9 percent) and Reverend Jeremiah Wright (11 percent) as issues that bother them.
But with more than four out of five of each candidate's supporters now saying their minds are made up, the poll suggests that McCain faces serious challenges as he looks to close the gap on his Democratic rival in the final three weeks of the campaign.
Expectations are high for Obama in Wednesday's third and final debate, which 65 percent of registered voters say they are very likely to watch. Nearly half of all registered voters expect Obama will win the debate, while just 19 percent expect McCain to win.
Americans have a much higher opinion of the Democratic Party than the Republican Party. A majority - 52 percent - have a favorable opinion of the Democrats, while far less - 37 percent - have a favorable opinion of Republicans.
The Democratic Party is seen as more likely than the Republican Party to make the right decision on health care (55 percent to 18 percent), the economy (47 percent to 29 percent), and the war in Iraq (44 percent to 37 percent).
And when it comes to the House Of Representatives, 48 percent of likely voters say they will be choosing the Democratic candidate in November, compared to 34 percent who plan to vote for the Republican candidate.