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. Dallas Gard

    Why is it that the more elections cost the more uninformed the voters are. Instead of only polling on the horserace aspect CNN should alwo poll on voter knowledge and identify the issues that are confusing voters then attempt to inform them correctly. Granted, that would take some work plus you would still end up with an incomplete picture. Example, Romney still hasn't presented a plan for the economy that can be scored because it so general (close tax loopholes without identifying a single loophole he would close) it can't be scored. Why doesn't CNN press Romney for answers as a condition for coverage. Who would be best questions are meaningless when no details are available for making such an assessment. Come on CNN, start doing your job and properly informing your viewers. Right now coverage really sucks.

    May 22, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  2. Gymo

    Right now Obama is ahead in swing States – So if the election was held now Obama would win the electoral college.
    Right now there are some formerly Republican States that are now becoming swing States, like Tennessee and Arizona, if that holds up Obama could win an even more landslide victory than he did against John McCain.
    Those are the facts CNN won't tell you, you have go read the State-by-States polls.

    May 22, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  3. pjoe

    Obama will win. Face it, this country is done. Handouts to everyone who votes for him. Soon we'll be like Haiti.

    Why pay your mortgage? The government will bail you out.
    Why save for college? The government will give you a loan and then not force you to pay it back.
    Why work? The government will give you a house, car, day-care, food, clothes, etc.

    Game over.

    May 22, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  4. Niuhc

    The more I read and research, the more I am coming to the conclusion that Glen Beck and others are right, though I don't necessarily agree with everything they say or how they say it. Personally I think we need Ron Paul in the white house. He will start heading the country back in the right direction and his more extreme views will be moderated by the congress and senate. Though if he won, "they" would probably have him assassinated.

    May 22, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  5. Sue

    Cliff: Look at all state/national polls. Romney already has the support/votes of the MAJORITY of Independents, by at least 10 points!!

    May 22, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  6. Investment Advisor

    @ ron....Spoken like a dyed in the wool socialist.....you are not wacko, just lazy and dangerous.

    May 22, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  7. protank

    All Obama has is touting the failure of others. He can not tout his success because he has none, Oh wait, Bin Laden, but no proof that went down as advertised either.

    May 22, 2012 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  8. FLIndpendent

    "Here comes the "If (R) wins, I'm moving to Canada" brigade again. Happens every time. Unfortunately, they never actually leave."
    Wasn't it Rush Limbaugh that said he was moving to Costa Rica if the Healthcare Bill passed? Well, he's still here unfortunately!

    May 22, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  9. Bren

    Liberals are hilarious. They keep saying "Romney has no chance". Yet, poll after poll keeps showing that Romney is either tied/leading/closing in, and he just started campaigning against Obama!! Democrats are now coming out of the woodwork to defend Romney and Bain. They know that continual attacks on big business by Obama, means no financial donations to the DNC. Could it be that they secretly want Romney to win, so that Obama is not able to destory the Democratic Party for good, if he is reelected for 4 more years?

    May 22, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  10. Johnson

    We are only now hearing the bad effects of the 25 years in business Romney has been bragging about. So many people lost their jobs and companies going out of business in order to make Romney a rich man.

    May 22, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  11. Obama 2012 - BEND Forward America, take another 4 long years of FAILURE

    Anonymous – He really needs to focus on the debt and spending.
    You kidding??? He's focused on it so well over the last 4 years that he has spent RECORD amounts and borrowed RECORD amounts and racked up RECORD deficits. All while his Democrat Do-Nothing lackeys in the Senate refuse to pass a budget and Obama's budgets have yet to get a single vote from ANYBODY.

    Obama and the Democrats: Total and complete financial incompetents.

    May 22, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  12. Dan

    Obama will lose and we all know it. Obama is a one term president.

    May 22, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  13. Bren

    Gymo: Sorry hon. Obama is NOT ahead in the swing states. Obama is goign to lose North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri, and Wisconsin. I would say that the increase of voters registering Republican in Iowa (thousands once Romney won the nomination, now more registered Republicans then Democrats, based on an article by CNN)--that Romney wins Iowa as well.

    May 22, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  14. Obama 2012 - BEND Forward America, take another 4 long years of FAILURE

    pjoe - Obama will win. Face it, this country is done. Handouts to everyone who votes for him. Soon we'll be like Haiti.
    Correct. But WE keep Haiti alive. Who will come to keep US alive?? The Chinese???

    May 22, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  15. blave

    You wicked educated people who kiss the dems feet hope you like your freedoms now. Just wait the most transparent president (ha ha) will force you eat your peas..........

    May 22, 2012 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  16. anoel2005

    Anyone who has a college age kid , like myself, knows that the unemployment rate for graduates is as bad as 50 %.

    Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, you have to know that Romney can do much better on the most important issue of JOBS !!!!

    May 22, 2012 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  17. omegarising

    Wow! Two global banking elite puppets are tied! Who'd a thunk it?

    May 22, 2012 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  18. Woman In California

    I can't believe you are so blind to reality. Obama has pitted just about every segment of our society against another segment of our society. It is a play right out of his leftist progressive play book. Black against white, hispanic against white, rich against poor, straight against gays, government against business, young against old, and he's not done yet. I'm sure he'll concoct more in order to get the peoples attention of the lack of jobs and the horrible trajectory he has set this country on, bankruptcy.

    ONLY a person with a very low level of intelligence would take this comment seriously. It is BEYOND ignorant and only tells what kind of person you REALLY are. For you information – Ronald Reagan DID ALL OF THIS in the 80's and it worked brilliantly. People like you felt threatned they were being taken over by minorities and supped Reagan up like the LIAR he was. Your yelling and screaming about Obama causing division won't work in 2012 because the American people have realized just what damage ignorance causes.

    May 22, 2012 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  19. Keeping it Real

    Obama has had his chance, and he's been woefully inadequate. So much so that he can't even run on his own record. Unemployment figures, along with record lows in the overall workforce due to those who have just stopped looking, have established his record for him. You simply cannot paint this picture as anything more or less than what it is. Obama's fix? To increase tax revenues... Seriously? Is this the new democrat plan? We've been getting this from Democrats for years, and while it has a short term effect, it stifles growth and makes things worse in the long run. The answer here is clear. Obama should be gone on his own performance record. I'll grade it a D.

    May 22, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  20. Paul

    I'm curious whether the birthers in Arizona will be able to torpedo Obama. The weasels are talking about keeping Obama off the ballot unles he can "prove to them" that his birth certificate is real and that he is eligible to run. Can you imagine? A state deciding that nothing is good enough to "prove" his citizenship and keeps him off the ballot, thereby all but handing 11 college votes to the GOP. It would be a new low in GOP tricks.

    May 22, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  21. Ben

    CNN: Why don't you also include independent voters in the poll? You talk about the gap with women voters (favoring Obama), character, etc. – any indicator that favors Obama. You scoff when anyone suggests your reporting is biased, but it sure seems that way. Is there anything about Romney you find admirable or his strengths compared to Obama's?
    I'm neither a Romney supporter nor a fan of Obama; I just want fair and balanced news.

    May 22, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  22. Hillary

    President Obama still 114 projected electoral votes ahead of alexithymic Mitt. Scarborough and Coulter are spot on: Everybody knows Romney can't win. It's republicans saying it, not the Media.

    May 22, 2012 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  23. Paul Michael

    There gards down hellry hit one of thim wilal we the people deside.pnm.

    May 22, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  24. Boo

    Presidents DON'T CREATE jobs.............................

    May 22, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  25. Oliver

    All anyone has to do is look at the electoral map to see that this race is already over. The media is hyping these general polls, but we all know majority vote does not always win (ie Al Gore 2000). The electoral map is quite clear. Romney needs to either sweep the big three PA, OH, FL or he needs to win -all- of the swing states, NH, MI, VA, IA, WI, MN, AZ, CO, NC, IN. At current Obama holds a big lead in PA that Romney will not make up, plus nice leads in NH, VA, IA, WI, MI. Even OH and FL have Obama slightly up. Romney isn't going to sweep anything, or even win his home and governing states. Keep hyping the election media, its clear you just want the ratings.

    May 22, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
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