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. insight iowa

    I love how these polls speak for the rest of the nation and the media runs with them. how many Dems, Socialist, Repubs, Independents did they actually poll? Was it an even number or just how many over 50 still have home phones.

    May 22, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  2. Pam D

    Obama will win another term. Romney is too afraid to stand up to the tea party nuts.

    May 22, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  3. Frank -Ohio

    Go Romney!

    May 22, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  4. pjoe

    We now have 46 Million people on food stamps. That's up over 14 million since Obama was elected. More governmental dependency probably means Obama wins (unless a lot of these people would rather have a job).

    May 22, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  5. nagrom

    Well China and India is where all the jobs went under Bain Capital and the Bush administration. Maybe when all you repuke supporters lose your jobs under Romneycare you can get a job overseas. You all won't be missed.

    May 22, 2012 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  6. PTNY

    I'm still waiting to hear of one small tiny way Romney plans to create jobs...I'm cuirious.

    May 22, 2012 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  7. Elizabeth

    And Gary Johnson is not included in this poll? Why does CNN loathe Johnson so much as to exclude him? What is your biased beef with this man? PPP includes Johnson in their polls and Johnson is pulling 6-9% nationally, 7% in New Hampshire, 8% in Montana and 15% in the battleground state of New Mexico, so obviously you're fudging the numbers and/or your polls numbers are incorrect.

    May 22, 2012 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  8. insight iowa

    People need to wake up and take a long look at how Romney was Governor of Mass. I'm Republican and I say "no thanks"... I will stick this out with Obama.

    May 22, 2012 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  9. winky

    Thru 2006-08 bush set the policies and yeah the democrats were stupid to give into the fear mongering but now we have obstruction in the republican congress. Why obstruct when u think the policies would fail? Allow the Presidents policies thru! Because the republicans know jobs would have been created with President Obama's policies! Now they to create a pipe-line good job mister president for obstructing their pipe dream! Our infrastructure is crumbling and these so called American-patriots want to be respected. No respect from me speaker communist!

    May 22, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  10. Lenny Pincus

    Obama is well ahead where it counts: the electoral college. The race is all but over.

    May 22, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  11. jam

    This is great news for Romney....the campaign will begin and end at the first debate. Obama cannot utter a sane thought without a promter.....He is a joke,. Staples Founder - Romney will clean up Obama's economic mess

    May 22, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  12. ObjectiveGuy

    The Obama supporters are sounding more and more desperate as each new poll shows Romney catching and overtaking him, and Romney is just STARTING to campaign. The sheer number of blatantly made up "facts" presented by Obama's supporters on this blog are a testament to their desperation. All Romney has to do is make sure Obama is held accountable for his track record for the past 3-1/2 years, and then no one with an ounce of intelligence would even consider voting for him.

    May 22, 2012 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  13. GayAtheist

    I certainly would never accept a Mormon in the WhiteHouse...I don't think America will, either.

    OBAMA 2012.

    May 22, 2012 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  14. Anon 2012

    Interesting that whenever Romney is ahead by a few points, the CNN headlines scream Romney is winning. In contrast, when Obama is ahead by a few points–the headlines always read–tie or dead heat.

    I found the internals of the poll much more interesting. Mitt Romney's whole campaign is based on his ability to create jobs, yet he and the president are tied on the economy and job creation. This ought to be a rather interesting election.

    May 22, 2012 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  15. jayyyfresh

    Obama promise to fix the economy and he didnt... And everyone knows it...

    The only reason people dont like romney is just because he is rich... Middle class is always atacking and blaming the rich! Unserstand people that is not nobodies fault you dont know how to manage your income!!!

    May 22, 2012 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  16. Hugganoak

    I agree with "Frank -Ohio", 2:21 PM. Go, Romney. Please, go. And don't come back.

    May 22, 2012 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  17. Ann

    Polls !!! Shmolls !!!

    During the 2008 election CNN would often report that Barack Obama was neck and neck with John McCain this went on right up until election day even when it was clear to most people that Barack Obama was far more popular that John McCain. The polls are a load of crap because these networkks have to keep up the perception of a horse race or else the public would become disengaged and uninterested and of course that would not be good for their ratings.

    May 22, 2012 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  18. Hugganoak

    by "sticking it out" with Obama, Insight Iowa will most likely be rewarded with a Republican president elected in 2016. If Romney wins this year, everyone is probably stuck with him for 8 years.

    May 22, 2012 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  19. Gezellig

    Niuhc Ah yes, the conspiratorial lights of Glen Beck and Ron Paul. Translation to your statement: The longer I stare at the illuminating Sun, the darker and darker the world becomes.

    May 22, 2012 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  20. Ann

    Dear Jam

    Are you talking about George Bush or that lame boring Willard Romney? You certainly could not be talking about Obama who is obviously a brilliant man

    May 22, 2012 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  21. macbil

    Those are not good numbers for Romney. If people are dissatisfied with Obama the way it is in Romney's, the Republican party's, and a few stray right wing billionaires's fantasies, Romney should be much farther ahead in the polls. Unfortunately, for Romney he won't win because people don't trust him and will reinforce that with some great new out-of-touch rich guy comments this Fall.

    May 22, 2012 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  22. RLGESQ1

    OK which Harvard liberal do you want? No enthusiasm from us Southerners for Romney. I don't know if Obama's HUGE negatives can rally us to support the horse of a different color.

    May 22, 2012 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  23. FLIndpendent

    All our you people supporting Romney because you think he knows how to create jobs, please enlighten us on how you think he will do so. He only supports the same policies that have been tried for over 30 years – lower taxes and de-regulate – so what will be different this time? We voted for Obama in '08 because we wanted the CHANGE of these policies and that seems to be moving us in the right direction. Yes, it's slower than we would like but it takes a lot of time to rebuild a country that's been knocked down as hard as we were. I just don't get where anyone with common sense doesn't understand that having two 10+ year wars, de-regulation, and lower taxes doesn't spell disaster. The Iraq War hasn't done one thing to help this country, yet we will vote for another Repub that already told us he will go to war with Iran! Obama 2012 for a better tomorrow!!

    May 22, 2012 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  24. Kenny

    Wait till the Obama Record adds hit. Wait till he is shown blowing off the economy to pass the health care disaster. Wait till he is shown kissing wall streets ass for political donations......I don't want to give to much away but the adds that can be made from Obama's record will be damming.

    Obama's Indian name?

    Blames previous chief.

    May 22, 2012 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  25. Expat American

    Note to 2012 college grads….

    This is an election year. If you know how to ‘spin’…and you know how to do it well….then you will find a job.

    May 22, 2012 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
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