October 1st, 2012
03:59 PM ET
2 years ago

Battle for presidency remains close in new CNN poll

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.


Filed under: 2012 • CNN/ORC International poll • Mitt Romney • Polls • President Obama
soundoff (293 Responses)
  1. dscon

    I'm guessing Barry bad behind, will play, 'I'm just a poor minority trying to save my homeys from
    you evil gop'ers', during the debate.
    Hey, it's worked well so far!
    Yeah, the pimp with the gimp will shine!

    October 1, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  2. Republican Class Warfare

    Nobody cares about national numbers...that's not how the elections are decided. The election is up to the people of Ohio and Florida, and possibly the Supreme Court if the Rs can disenfranchise enough people. Nice to see Obama still ahead though.

    October 1, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  3. SS3

    If I read the details correctly, this is essentially a poll of those 50 and older. There appear to not be enough respondents of age below 50 to meet a reasonable margin of error. And therefore, if I am reading the details correctly, the "tie" result is not unexpected.

    October 1, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  4. briman

    lets see when the once again less than stellar jobs report comes out for September....

    October 1, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  5. jeffision

    And in other news, a CNN/ORC International poll shows that 47% of voters believe that pigs can and will fly. Nice try CNN...all other polls are showing a landslide for Obama.

    October 1, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  6. Ram Riva

    Interesting the President is leading in nine swing states...yet CNN reports that's all even....we guess that CNN did react to GOP pressure that all polls that do not favor Romney, even Fox News, are rigged....the problem with Romney campaign is that the President is doing his job of President of the USA....therefore looking Presidential every single day....Romney?....well he's Mitt...he cannot change that....even his lovely wife Ann Romney showed concerns about Romney's mental health......this election has been decided....

    October 1, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  7. Hellno

    Please STOP these debates. They are a waste of time, energy and money. Everyone knows for whom they will vote and these debates do not change peoples minds. Barack Obama seems like a nice person but he's basically an empty suit. I couldn't listen to Willard Romney give a weather report because he'd lie about it as well as everything else. In a nation as big as the US, why is there no one better than these two?? Both of them are "outsiders" to Capital Hill and neither will accomplish anything with that bunch of bozos. People have to understand, it's doesn't matter who's in the White House. It's who's on Capital Hill and we have to clean house there!!! That's were Americans should be concentrating their efforts. Vote them all out and start over!!!

    October 1, 2012 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  8. 4pease

    Maybe Romney will try to cut Obama's hair during the debate.

    October 1, 2012 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  9. Hugo Chavez

    The election will be close but my man Obama will pulll out a victory with the millions of illegals he has signed up to vote for him. Our 4 year plan of open borders, no ballot box protection is about to pay off big time.

    October 1, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  10. TonyK

    bhakka? Look around and see what? Lots of hard working people making tough choices, but getting screwed because of the deck is stacked against them? They just want a fair chance! This whole "booze and cigarettes" argument is foolish–stats show that the poor don't drink nearly as much as the wealthy–for one thing, they don't have the money.

    Get a clue!

    October 1, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  11. silvertop

    So most of posters believe president Obama is way ahead. How do you evaluate a candidate? On the economy, he blames Bush. Bush's deficit was reduced by the TARP just before he took over.He had both houses of congress in the first 2 years. He blames obstructionists in congress. Well Harry Reid's Senate has not brought a budget bill in 3 years, and the president's budget plan was nixed by his own democrats in the senate. He got his stimulus passed but he blew it with green energies investment. The no question asked mortgage lending led to our downfall, and the president is now proposing lowering the interest rate further. How does that create jobs? Our life long saving is earning near 0 interest. Maybe his plan is that when my savings is used up, I can then give up my independence and rely on the government to take care of me.

    October 1, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  12. It's over Willard

    You might have won but you keep...............talking!!!!!!

    October 1, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  13. Jeff

    Wait, I thought Romney was dead?...

    October 1, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  14. ginchicago

    Well there goes your liberal media bias.

    October 1, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  15. sayer

    Obama 2012!

    October 1, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  16. FLIndependent

    Of course the media is saying the race has tightened up 3 days before the debate – have to keep that horse race alive so more people will watch and the corporate media will make more $$$$. There are very predictable. President Obama will prevail!

    October 1, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  17. Mark

    I have to say that looking at the internals of this poll it seems they must have greatly oversampled the South. Seriously, look at the numbers where they break it down by voting region. In many instances, Obama is shown winning all three other regions by large margins in many instances, with Romney winning only the South. Yet the overall average seems to be showing a much smaller lead than would be warranted if the four regions were sampled roughly equally. This is strange. Someone enlighten me as to how this math can work.

    October 1, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  18. David Arrington

    What's interesting is even the consideration of a Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney has made so many mistakes publicly that it scares me that intelligent people who should know better, even consider the thought of voting for this man. Mitt Romney has lied, changed his story, lied and lied again, so how are we suppose to trust him. Obama hasn't lied once. Obama hasn't changed his story. I'm voting for Barack because going "forward" with a man who is consistent, is far better than going anywhere with a man who can't be honest consistently. Its been tough but at least Barack has been honest with us. Aside from Mitt Romney's stance on anything, the man waivers too much. He obviously doesn't know where he stands with us because he'll say anything to get our vote. That's not the characteristics of a good president.

    October 1, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  19. Gurgyl

    Mr. Tax cheat, job shipper to china, show me your 12 year taxes.....47%. Nonsense.

    October 1, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  20. jake

    @liz ....really?! Don't make discriminatory generalizations. It may, just may, be because he is a terrible president. I think he is an inspiring person, a great orator, and a good family man, but none of those three things make up for his lack of presidential skills.

    October 1, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  21. zaggs

    Obama only up 3 in a D+8 sample? He is up 3 in a sample that not only would require even greater democrat turnout than in 2008, but a 4 point drop in republican turnout compared to 2008! Yeah, Obama is toast.

    October 1, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  22. sammy zoso

    It's all over. Debates will show what a shallow loser Romney is and how much more intelligent Obama is compared to Romney plus 99 percent of our dumb nation. Obama in a landslide.

    October 1, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  23. CMAN

    Lets go Gary Johnson!!!

    October 1, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  24. Todd

    Dems are for the little man. The big man has to take care of the little man. How can a Dem even call himself a man; just look at the weak little guys – need someone else to care for his family – pathetic. And their wives secretly wish they had a big man – sad.

    October 1, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  25. dscon

    Heck, Hugo and Vladimir gotta be smart to endorse O,
    they know the US regime is a non threat to Diktater's.

    October 1, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
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