According to the poll, 51 percent said they expected Obama to win, against 29 percent who said Romney.

In addition, Democratic voters are substantially more confident about Obama’s prospects in the debate than Republicans are about Romney’s. A larger number of Republicans, 16 percent, said they expected Obama to win, compared to only 4 percent of Democrats who said the same about Romney.

Independent voter expectations are in line with the overall results, with 44 percent saying Obama would win, compared to 28 percent for Romney.

The Obama team has tried to lower expectations ahead of the debate. Campaign officials have routinely talked up Romney’s debating skills, pointing to the more than 20 debates he participated in during the Republican primaries.

Obama on Sunday told voters at a campaign stop in Las Vegas he was “just OK” at debating.

"You may have heard that in a few days, my opponent in this election and I are going to have a debate," he said. "I'm looking forward to it. I know folks in the media are speculating already on who's going to have the best zingers ... and who's going to put the most points on the board.

"Gov. Romney, he's a good debater," Obama continued. "I'm just OK."

The president has also looked to convey the message that debate preparation is a burden that he might not be singularly focused on. On Sunday, Obama reportedly skipped debate prep to watch football.

And on Tuesday, he took a break to visit a nearby campaign field office.

“It's very nice,” he told one volunteer. “Although basically they're keeping me indoors all the time. It's a drag. They're making me do my homework.”

The Romney campaign isn’t buying it, and submitted its own entry into the expectations-lowering game.

“President Obama is a uniquely gifted speaker, and is widely regarded as one of the most talented political communicators in modern history,” senior adviser Beth Myers wrote in a memo sent to surrogates last week.

Myers added that Obama has a “significant advantage” in the debate and called him a “universally acclaimed public speaker.”