Despite high drama, clashing personalities and strong opinions in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination, Americans still remain unsure on which GOP candidate to back.
However half of those polled were certain that President Obama does not deserve to be re-elected.
Edging slightly ahead, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was reasonably popular among Republicans.
|Time to choose: Republican candidates (l-r) Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann
Former pizza company executive Herman Cain ran close to Romney as the candidate Republicans would most like to see on the ballot, but many voters were reluctant to back a man who has never held office.
Texas Governor Rick Perry lagged in the poll, which was conducted before the debate took place on Tuesday night in Las Vegas.
During the two-hour, televised forum, several candidates sharply criticised Cain's tax proposals while Perry hit Romney hard on immigration.
Romney was the choice of 30 per cent of Republicans, with Cain close behind at 26 per cent. Perry was favoured by 13 percent while Ron Paul of Texas took 10 per cent.
Half of those surveyed said Obama should not be re-elected with 46 per cent supporting a second term for the President in the White House. It continues his gradual slide in popularity since May.
Time to choose: Republican candidates (l-r) Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann
|Fighting talk: Spats between Republican candidates Mitt Romney (left) and Rick Perry did not help voters come any closer to deciding who should lead the party in the presidential race
When voters were asked about who they could imagine in a head-to-head match up, Obama and Romney ran almost even, 48 per cent for Obama to 45 per cent for the Republican.
Obama held a narrow edge over Cain - 49 per cent to 43 per cent. He leads Perry 51 per cent to 42.
One voter Luis Calderon, from El Monte, California said he was unhappy with Obama but was not convinced of possible replacements.
Mr Calderon said: 'Even though I criticize him, I still want him to win.
'Obama has to get down to business, forget about promises, just do it, create jobs. But in order to create jobs, he has to be harder on the Republicans.'
Mr Calderon, who is a Democrat, said Romney 'is the one that may do a little dent on Obama'.
Decline in popularity: Half of Americans said Obama, seen picking pumpkins with Michelle in Virginia during his three-day bus tour, does not deserve to be re-elected.
Romney spent four years as Massachusetts governor and ran for president in 2008.
In what may present a problem for Cain, four in ten Republicans polled said they would be less inclined to vote for someone who has never been elected to public office.
The figure is higher than those who say they are unlikely to vote for a Mormon, woman or black candidate.
However Ronald Wilson, a conservative Republican from Bucyrus, Ohio, said: 'I favour Herman Cain. He's not infected by Washingtonitis.'
Many GOP insiders see Romney as the most plausible nominee and Obama's strongest potential challenger.
But Romney generates little passion among Republican voters, who seem to keep shopping for an alternative as time ticks down to the caucuses in Iowa on January 3.
None of the candidates has begun heavy television advertising, which Romney and Perry in particular can afford.
Perry has positioned himself to the right of Romney on several issues but is having trouble breaking through with conservative voters.
Three in five Republicans said they view Perry as conservative, but only 26 percent say he's 'strongly conservative'."
Cain gets roughly the same 'strongly conservative' marks, while 17 per cent of Republicans give Romney that label.
Among conservative Republicans, Romney is the choice of 28 per cent, Cain 27 per cent and Perry 15 per cent. Ten per cent of conservatives said they're not sure whom they'd like to see win the party's nod.
Tea party supporters were split 33 per cent for Cain, 29 per cent for Romney and 13 per cent for Perry.
Among all those surveyed, regardless of party identification, 21 per cent say they'd like the GOP to nominate Romney while 18 per cent named Cain, 13 per cent went for Perry and Paul got 11 per cent.
(c) Daily Mail, London