Poll: Obama, Romney tied as race heats up
May 22nd, 2012
08:15 AM ET
10 years ago

Poll: Obama, Romney tied as race heats up

(CNN) – Less than six months ahead of November's general election, Americans are split between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, according to a poll released Tuesday.

The Washington Post/ABC News survey showed the two candidates statistically tied with 49% of Americans backing Obama and 46% supporting Romney. When asked which contender would best handle the economy, Obama and Romney were tied at 47%.

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A marked enthusiasm gap opened between the two candidates in the new poll. Forty-eight percent of Obama's supporters said they were "very enthusiastic" about the president's candidacy, compared to 23% of Romney's backers who said they were "very enthusiastic" about supporting the Republican candidate.

Asked further about each candidate's character, voters seemed to favor Obama. They gave the Democratic incumbent higher marks on "understanding the economic problems people in this country are having" (48%-40%), as well as "has the better moral character to serve as president" (52%-38%).

- Related: Poll: Voters prefer Obama's foreign policy to his economics

The gender gap between Obama and Romney continued to persist in Tuesday's survey. Women favored Obama over his GOP rival 51% to 44% in the poll.

As in almost every national survey, the economy was the No. 1 issue for voters, with 52% of respondents saying it was their top concern. All other issues stood in the single digits, with 7% saying their top choice was health care and 5% naming morals and family values.

While the presidential campaign veered into social issues after Obama publically endorsed same-sex marriage for the first time at the beginning of May, it has largely returned to discussion of the economy and jobs. For the past week and a half, Democrats have hammered away at Romney's record as a private equity executive, saying his role in shutting down plants indicates a wavering commitment to creating jobs.

Americans surveyed for the Washington Post/ABC News poll had an overwhelmingly negative perception of the economy, with 83% saying America's economic condition was "not so good" or "poor." That's compared to 17% who felt positively about the economy.

Obama's 42% approval rating on the economy indicated the issue won't be going away any time soon – while the figure has improved slightly since March, it still lags well behind Obama's overall approval rating, which Tuesday's poll showed standing at 47%. However, more Americans (49%) say former President George W. Bush carries greater responsibility for the economic state than blame Obama (34%).

On other issues, Obama's approval was better. Forty-seven percent of Americans approve of his handing of the war in Afghanistan, and 48% registered approval of his record on international affairs.

Those issues, however, ranked near the bottom of Americans' top issue list. Only 1% of respondents said Afghanistan was their top issue, though the poll did not ask respondents to name their number two or three most important concerns.

The Washington Post/ABC News poll was taken by telephone from 1,004 adults between May 17 and 20. The sampling error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Also see:

Political jabs are 'nauseating,' mayor says

Gingrich is millions in the hole

Boehner and Pelosi say they feel good heading into November

Axelrod: Fund-raising pitch cited Wright threat to combat super PACs

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • Polls • President Obama
soundoff (361 Responses)
  1. Dante

    GOOD GOD GERDIE – Who cares about this nonsense. The election is in November and the winner will be whomever the public picks- making a prediction is like posting the winning Powerball numbers – a guess at best. Here is a flash – if its obama we have more of the same- if its Romney – things are going to change. Beyond that comment – there really isn't much to discuss as both parties have their agenda and that agenda is different and not necesarily what the Americn Public wants – so get a grip and take a vacation.

    May 22, 2012 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  2. Gymo

    I have noticed that when Romney is one point ahead, CNN headline is: Romney beating Obama.
    When Obama is 3 points ahead, CNN headline is race is dead-heat – STRANGE.
    Also, when Obama is leads in the polls, CNN host then go into the poll and find something that Romney is leading in to use as topic of discussion – CNN-No longer trustworthy.

    May 22, 2012 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  3. MikeB

    How is Obama's abandonment of Afghan women to the Taliban a plus for his support of women?

    May 22, 2012 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  4. Gymo

    Obama is getting a raw deal:
    I have noticed that when Romney is one point ahead, CNN headline is: Romney beating Obama.
    When Obama is 3 points ahead, CNN headline is race is dead-heat – STRANGE.
    Also, when Obama is leads in the polls, CNN host then go into the poll and find something that Romney is leading in to use as topic of discussion

    May 22, 2012 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  5. helpuz

    Obama – "run the economy" – What a joke – he could only run the conomy in to the ground; and that mission is accomplished.

    May 22, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  6. julie

    Selective memory for some to claim FACTS! it is soooo stupid, as though whatever is posted will be believed and will get someone to change one's vote/mind!
    I am glad some get to vent, it is really amusing!

    May 22, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  7. elucidated1

    Isn't it amazing how short our memories are? Just three years ago the US economy was close to going off a cliff.. .losing 750,000 jobs a month, two wars adding $4 trillion to our debt. . .and yet now . . .we wonder why Obama hasn't just 'fixed everything." Priceless.

    May 22, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  8. Richard

    The poll is screwed up . The data base shows that 33% of respondents were Democrats ony 22% were Republicans and 38% were independents. The undercount of Republicans does not reflect the political demographics of the country. Washington Post ABC are supporting Obama for President. This poll is designed to favor Obama so that his donors do not bail out. The poll cannot be trusted.

    May 22, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  9. Richard Broderick, Jr.

    Hey Mitt, how do more tax cuts for the rich help to balance the budget?

    May 22, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  10. Patriot

    The LIER versus Obama. The job killer (Romney) versus Job creator (Obama). Which one will you pick?.

    May 22, 2012 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  11. Woman In California


    Lets see: Successful businessman, knows how to profit, knows about efficiency, cuts the fat, trims the waste.


    Community organizer: Knows how to take from others to redistribute, but not how to grow it from the ground up.

    Easy decision. Wish I got it right four years ago.

    You did GET IT RIGHT.

    David was a shepherd who became KING (and what a mighty king he was) so what is your point? I'll take the community organizer AGAIN in '12.

    May 22, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  12. FLIndpendent

    "The Republicans are complaining about the unemployment rate being 8%, just imagine if Romney had been there instead and done nothing!"
    Agreed, and isn't it funny now that the unemployment is 8% that you no longer hear the Repubs whining that Obama promised that the stimulus would prevent the rate from going over 8%. Hopefully, the rate will keep improving and will be well below 8% by November, then what will Romney have to run on??

    May 22, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  13. Walter

    The fact that they are tied, speaks to the weakness of Romney. For Obama's entire term true (U-6) unemployment has been near or above 15%. How anyone would want another 4 years of that is beyond me.

    May 22, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  14. ShawnDH

    Actually, they are NOT in a dead heat. Obama is in a far better position vis-a-vis the electoral college, which is how elections are actually won. National polls are irrelevant. If 85% of white Southerners are voting for Romney, that drives up his national poll numbers, but he can't win Alabama's 9 electiral votes more than once, so who cares? Obama is doing much better in the states that are competetive and therefore he's winning.

    May 22, 2012 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  15. Qi

    I like Romney, but I still want to know why he will not release his tax records. What is he trying to hide from us. More off shore bank accounts, or worse. Could be an October suprise. Maybe we should have picked someone else....

    May 22, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  16. Niuhc

    Obama will do whatever he has to in order to remain in power. He is creating class war and race war. The OWS dummies are being prepped to create a situation where Obama can declare martial law, if that becomes necessary to keep from losing power.

    May 22, 2012 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  17. FLIndpendent

    Even though I question most polls this early in the game, you need to look at the ones that show the electoral map – Obama is way ahead of Romney and that's what counts. Unless there is hanky panky from the Repubs like there was in 2000 & 2004 (Ohio) , the election will go to Obama as these polls don't indicate results from the silent majority.

    May 22, 2012 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  18. lisasc

    I for one am glad that the race is even. Hopefully this will force both parties to address the issues that concern our country. I am sick of politicians setting the agenda.

    May 22, 2012 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  19. FLIndpendent

    "The Obama supporters can't claim that this is a Fox News poll." – Actually Fox has Obama up by 7, more than any other poll!

    May 22, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  20. Robert Sneirson

    I really do not care one way or the other whether or not Barack Obama is tied with Mitt Romney. Why? Because we, here in the United States elect our Presidents by the Electoral College and not by popular referendum. As we saw in the 2000 election, the winner of the popular vote may or may not be elected president. Whether this is the "correct" way to elect our Presidents, we can debate ad infinitum but for the forseeable future, but until them we must deal with the Electoral College plain and simple, Plesae CNN report you finding on a state by state basis and not as a nationwide aggregation.

    May 22, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  21. ron

    This is media crap. CNN/FOX will keep it at dead heat so all you media dead beats keep listening. Then when Obama wins in a land slide victory over YOUR SO BAIN Romney, they will scrath their heads and just wont be able to explain why the polls were off so much, DAH!! It is the dumb listeners of the media hype like these polls of a small group of people whom they pick, whom they poll, and whom they give you the results for. Come on America seriously, get a clue, VOTE OBAMA, VOTE DEMOCRAT and get America looking for the liberal freedoms we pay for. This corporate well fare and corporate buying of republican candidates for the 1% has got to stop. POLL with the Populus and take back your country from these wacko neo cons!

    May 22, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  22. Aaron

    Not voting for Obama. He has done nothing but blame others for his failings. If congress is to blame for his shortcomings than we could blame the all democratic congress from 2006-2008 for Bush's shortcomings. At least Bush was man enough to take the punches as they come and not throw anyone else under the bus for his mistakes. Obama has an excuse for everything and it has gotten old real fast.

    May 22, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  23. Thomas

    @ Lizzie
    I'm not condemning anybody ,

    I won't vote for a wana be like Mitt Romney , with daddy issues ,who acts like a hawk . Romney who took off to France during the Vietnam war to prostalise and convert.

    Obama 2012 – BEND Forward America, take another 4 long years of FAILURE

    No I didn't vote for McCain , he lost my respect when in In the 2000 South Carolina Presidential primary Bush surrogates ... Only Bush And Rove Are Allowed To Question McCain's Military Record” ..

    John should have grabbed Boy Bush by his tie and slapped him around the room for questioning his war record.

    But then you voted for Boy Bush. didn't you !

    May 22, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  24. TexasCentrist

    Wow! Only 49% of Americans say former President George W. Bush carries greater responsibility for the economic state than blame Obama. Where have they been?

    May 22, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  25. NL

    Bush ran the economy into dire straits and because Obama couldn't preform a miracle and fix it in 4 years everyone has turned from him. Why don't we see if we can get bush back for another stint?

    May 22, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
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