A new poll gives President Obama a nationwide lead over GOP challenger Mitt Romney, thanks in part to a commanding 18-point edge among female voters.

A new Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday puts Obama ahead of Romney with 49 percent support to 45 percent among likely voters.

Obama leads Romney 56 to 38 percent among women and by 94 to 2 percent among African-Americans. Romney holds the edge among men, 52 to 42 percent, and among white voters who back him, 53 to 42 percent.


Romney also holds a slight advantage among independent voters, who prefer the Republican nominee over the president 47 to 45 percent.

The poll finds voters expect Obama to win the three presidential debates between the candidates by 54 to 28 percent.

Obama and Romney will face off in the first of the televised debates this Wednesday in Denver.

Ninety-three percent of likely voters say they intend to watch the debates, but 86 percent say they don’t expect either candidate to say anything to change their opinion.

“Voters clearly are interested in the debates but skeptical that the events will make them reconsider their voting preference,” said Peter A. Brown, Quinnipiac University Polling Institute’s assistant director, in a release announcing the poll’s findings. "The best news for Romney going into the debates is that voters have very low expectations for him and therefore the bar for him to change some minds is set lower than it is for the president," Brown added.

On the economy, 48 percent of voters say Obama will do a better job, with 47 percent picking Romney.

Obama leads on every other major issue, with a 52-43 percent edge on handling an international crisis, a 50-45 percent advantage on healthcare and a 50-44 percent lead on national security.

The poll findings suggest Romney’s effort to highlight the recent turmoil in the Middle East to paint the president as weak on foreign policy is failing to swing voters.

Asked who they would want in the Oval Office if a family member were at risk of violence in a foreign country, likely voters picked Obama 50 to 45 percent.

The Quinnipiac poll was conducted from Sept. 25-30 and has a 2 point margin of error.