Washington (CNN) – Two days before the first presidential debate, a new national survey indicates a very close contest between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the race for the White House.
And according to a CNN/ORC International poll, neither candidate appears to have an edge on the economy, which remains the top issue on the minds of Americans and which may dominate Wednesday night's debate on domestic issues in Denver.
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Fifty-percent of likely voters questioned in the CNN survey, which was released Monday, say that if the election were held today, they would vote for the president, with 47% saying they would support Romney, the former Massachusetts governor. The president's three point margin is within the poll's sampling error.
Three other national polls of likely voters released in the past 24 hours also indicate a tight race. The other surveys are from ABC News/Washington Post, Politico/George Washington University, and American Research Group. A CNN Poll of Polls which averages all four surveys plus a Fox News poll released late last week puts Obama at 49% and Romney at 46% among likely voters.
In the CNN/ORC poll, the national horse race stands pretty much where it was just before the two back-to-back party conventions in late August and early September.
"That's a strong suggestion that whatever bounce President Obama received from his convention has, as expected, faded away," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "That's why they call them 'bounces'."
When it comes to issues, the survey indicates that Obama and Romney are effectively tied when likely voters are asked which candidate would best handle the economy. Romney, however, appears to have an edge on the top two economic issues: unemployment and the budget deficit. Obama, by contrast, has the advantage on a variety of non-economic domestic issues such as education, Medicare and health care, and also polls strongly on taxes, traditionally a GOP issue. All of these issues will most likely be debated by the candidates Wednesday night.
The president has a 52%-45% advantage over Romney on foreign policy, which will be the focus of the third and final showdown between the two candidates on October 22.
But debates are not just about issues; voters judge the candidates' personal qualities as well. Among likely voters, Obama's personal favorability rating is 52%, with 48% saying they view the president in an unfavorable way. The president's numbers are basically unchanged since mid August, before the conventions.
The public is divided on Romney, with 49% holding a favorable impression of him and 50% seeing him in a negative light. Romney's favorable rating was at 50% and his unfavorable at 46% in mid-August.
When the dust settles after the debates, it will all come down to turnout and getting out the vote, and the poll suggests when it comes enthusiasm, neither campaign seems to have the upper hand.
"Only half of Romney's voters strongly supported him in May, but despite that slow start, he now gets the same level of strong support from his voters that Obama enjoys," adds Holland. "And there is no indication of an 'enthusiasm gap', with 65% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats saying they are extremely enthusiastic or very enthusiastic about voting in November."
The poll indicates Democrats overwhelming supporting the president and Republicans overwhelmingly backing Romney, with independent voters going for Romney by a 49%-41% margin, which is within the sampling error for independents.
According to the survey, Obama holds a nine-point 53%-44% advantage among females, with Romney with a 50%-47% margin among men. Romney had a larger edge among men in CNN polling prior to the conventions.
"The president seems to have held onto some of that support among men, opening the possibility that their votes may be in play. Obama also held onto most of his bounce among rural voters, but they are still solidly in Romney's camp. On the other hand, Obama's biggest losses since the Democratic convention have come among lower-income voters and urban residents - two key elements of his coalition," says Holland. "But it's worth noting that support for Obama in those groups is back where it was before the conventions, indicating that the Democratic convention mobilized that portion of the Democratic base but only temporarily."
The president's approval rating in the new poll stands at 49% among all adults, with 48% saying they disapprove of how Obama handling his duties in the White House. The president's approval rating stood at 50%-44% before the conventions.
In addition to the three presidential debates, Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican running mate, face off next week at a debate in Kentucky. The poll indicates that Biden has a 47% favorable rating, with 44% saying they see him in an unfavorable way. Ryan has 46%-40% favorable/unfavorable rating.
The CNN Poll was conducted by ORC International Sept. 28-30, with 1,013 adult Americans, including 883 registered voters and 783 likely voters, questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points, with a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for questions only of likely voters.
– CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.
It's only a tight race if Romney and the GOP try and steal the election ....again.
Too bad that the rest of the country cannot figure out why Mittens is really behind in MA. He was a failure as a governor, added $2.6 billion to their debt, outsourced government jobs to India, and added over 700 new taxes.
Oh darn! Obama's "bounce" dropped just in time for the debates. Or Rush Limbaugh, the leader of the Republican Party, threw a big enough hissy fit that CNN caved.
Going to be a great many unhappy GOPers come November 6th if you keep caving to the likes of Limbaugh, CNN.
C'mon CNN... everyone knows that in highly partisan times we live in, national poll numbers are virtually meaningless. How about getting back to reporting what's really important, namely the battleground state polls?
Talk about the 47% we should ignore......
If it is all tied up why do Predict Wise and 538 Blog both have the probability of the President being reelected at something in excess of 80%?
polls are worthless
No, it's too close ... this can't be true ...
... you just told me BO & JOE were way ahead ...
... ... if I can't get my Free Stuff ... I will surely have to work for it ...
... ... ... no way, Jose, gotta have my free stuff, Mr. President ... ... ...
Obama in a landslide!
Only on CNN can Obama be leading in the polls yet they will call it a tie.
UNLESS THE NUMBERS ARE EQUAL, EXACT, MATCHING, ETC, YOU CANNOT CALL IT A TIE IN YOUR HEADLINE. THAT IS MISLEADING AND OR LYING.
Basically the same groups who voted for Obama last time are going to again – and the same group who voted for McCain will pick Romney. It will be close, but probably not at the electoral college level.
Hello R & R ...
Looks like Mittons is getting ready to get his but kicked in the debate.
Money can't buy brains Mittions and yours is not as sharp as Obama!
When Romney dismantles Obama in the debate on Wednesday these numbers will move in Romney's direction. There is no way Obama can lie to the American people watching and say he has done anything in his four years when it comes to the economy. We are not only NOT better off, but now our kids and grand kids are buried under $6 TRILLION of Obama debt with another $6 TRILLION to be added if he gets another term. Wake up America. You have to get rid of Obama to save YOUR KIDS AND GRAND KIDS, not just yourself!
If in fact Romney has the "edge" on the economy, then this becomes to me a question of trust and thus far Romney hasn't proven to be trustworthy. Romney's supporters are the most wealthy Americans and he is beholding to them while the other 47% of Americans he doesn't care about.
Where is my free cell phone, Obama???
Good Bye Barrack! We wish you well......
Is the first debate on CNN? Is that why it has gone from a landslide assured victory for Obama last week to this?
What a joke! CNN wishes Obama wasn't winning, since it make for a dull horserace! However, if it gets more Obama supporters out to vote then so be it.
Spoke with relatives in Dewitt IA today, they voted this morning and were shocked at how many people (in a town of 9000) were at the polls voting. They told me the vast majority of people were Obama supporters, just as it had been in 2008. My aunt and uncle voted for Obama just as they did in 2008. I'm sure Obama will carry Iowa and Illinois again and absentee voting is up so far from 2008 and I don't think those are Romney supporters. I sure the election will be close, but in the end it all comes down to one state, Ohio, whoever wins Ohio will take the election and Obama is looking very strong in Ohio, which should be no surprise since thousands of auto worker related jobs were saved in Ohio by his intervention with bailouts, Romney said, let them go broke, he didn't care. Well people in Ohio don't forget things like that and it is Mittens many blunders and outright disgust of anyone not in his own class that have ruined any chance he has of being elected.
How is it possible that this is so close? Are you kidding me?! If you're voting for Mitt, you're an idiot. Obama has his problems, but seriously, you'd rather have MITT ROMNEY over him? Punch yourselves.
so romney finally has the support of the 47%
National polls mean nothing, but it makes for a fun debate.
What ties?? Nonsense. Do you ask about forty seven percent comment in debate. That guy is filthy rich, he does not care for American middle class. Watch him on YouTube and google of forty seven percent comment. No American should vote for that pig. Stinks.
What a load of garbage. Every poll up till now has shown Obama with a lead. Now that it's time for the tv show, you're calling it an even race. Face it, media people, you don't care about accurate news, just advertising dollars.
47% support Romney!? Shocker! – The thought that Romney could still win sends chills down my spine, like the Winter of our discontent.