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. fairpol

    Obama’s policies have wreaked havoc on the middle class – doubling of gas prices, declining incomes, millions of foreclosures, millions and millions unemployed, deficits at 16+ trillions and growing, Americans know they're not better off than they were four years ago. He has failed to turn around the economy and failed to unite the country, but instead turned out to be a divisive and destructive politician. He has failed to give the country hope, unity and direction he promised in 2008, . It is time for a change. Romney has been a turn-around specialist, a skill the country needs right now to turn around the economy and get people back to work.

    May 22, 2012 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  2. kim

    1,004 people polled, out of almost 400 million? How, in any logical way, is that supposed to be indicative of anything? How about polling a minimum of one million before releasing an opinion. That is still just one four-hundreth, hardly a believable sample.

    May 22, 2012 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  3. Lance

    "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"

    Hussein Obama ? He makes Jimmy Carter look brilliant.

    May 22, 2012 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  4. neil

    Who takes these polls anyway. Last month Obama was leading by more than 20 points now dead heat. Next week Romney leads. These polls are more like gossip. As per my poll talking to 10 buddies No one likes either Obama or Romney. So both got 0%. Any third party would get 100%

    May 22, 2012 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  5. marisombra

    Anyone who believes in Obama's lies should have an L branded on his/her forehead.

    May 22, 2012 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  6. revz

    I love how they just continue to ignore Ron Paul and his Delegate Machine. Typical media garbage ... they don't see enough money in backing a candidate whom is serious about changing the rules. The media just wants status quo so they can continue on their "entertainment news" path. The country is screwed no matter which one of the two "front runner" makes it.

    May 22, 2012 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  7. Dave

    I am defnitely excited about Romney. If American is not, I wonder if the liberal media has anything to do with that? They seem to suggest all the time how cool Obama is. Unfortunately, our "cool" President is ineffective as a leader.

    May 22, 2012 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  8. Michelle

    CNN NEVER accurately gets the whole facts in a story – for me, I will absolutely vote for Romney before I vote for Obama any day. Why? He's for gay rights, ILLEGALS coming into the country, which Obama is trying to make legal, even though he knows the majority of USA legal taxpaying citizens voted for it. The Demonrats failed to pass a budget, and all Obama and the Demonrats know how to do is take from people, tax people, and like the Relieorats, give themselves hefty raises for doing NOTHING. Even though I know that the Relieorats will take from the poor an middle class to give to their fat-cat corporate buddies, at least they don't limit the rights of Christians, which the Demonrats and Obama do. In short – ANYBODY but Obama – this nation is in a wreck because of him, and if he's elected for four more years along with Raid and Pewlousy, – then God help this country!!!

    May 22, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  9. Greg

    They're nowhere close to a "dead heat." The only thing that counts here is the Electoral College, where Obama has a huge lead. All these polls about the popular vote are virtually meaningless.

    May 22, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  10. Bren

    Insight Iowa: Of course polls by the Obama supporting media are never done fairly. There are ALWAYS more Democrats and Democrat-leaning Independents polled. They do not want the "real" poll results shown. They will wait until the election gets closer, just like they did for the 2010 elections-when Obama and the Democrats got clobbered, and never saw it coming!!

    May 22, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  11. pjoe

    Obama leads from his behind. For all his gay supporters out there ... you're welcome!

    May 22, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  12. C. K. Justus

    I am working for Obama and hope he can win a second term. He was given the worst economy since the one that HOOVER gave to FDR. Actually it was worse for when FDR took office there was only 127 million americans and we were mostly a rural economy and people lived by growing gardens.
    Now we 300 million and mostly an urban country and how are all those who live in condos going to grow a garden to have something to eat and can for the winter.

    May 22, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  13. FajitaBob

    These polls mean nothing until the first couple of debates. Watch Obama refuse to agree on a debate schedule, and hope the media carries his bags. Which they will gladly do.

    May 22, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  14. hotairwarrior

    Obama is a good president. People have forgotten the dire downward spiral G Bush left us. Thank-you Obama for keeping the ship from sinking.

    May 22, 2012 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  15. FLIndpendent

    @Cliff – "This will be a close race, but as an Independent that voted for obama before, he has lost my vote. It will be the Independents that decide this one, and I suspect Romney will win by a slim margin."
    As another Independent I would like to know your reasoning for not voting for President Obama again. He is heads & shoulders above Romney!

    May 22, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  16. Rachel

    Again, if Obama is doing such a great job then how come he's not way ahead in the polls? This is only good news for Romney as the challenger and speaks volumes about the Obama administration.

    May 22, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  17. FLIndpendent

    @Facts – "As far as Bush goes the economy boomed for his first 6 years in office, it only went to H#LL in the last 2. What was different about that? The Democrats took back congress. We saw NO improvements in the first 2 years under Obama. Then some minor improvements in the last year. What changed? Republicans took back the house. Think about it."
    You may want to check your "facts" as, even though the Dems took the House in '07, Bush had a record number of vetoes during those two years, so nothing the Dems wanted got through. The economy isn't getting better now because of the 2010 election, far from it, it is slowly improving because of Dem/Obama policies and would be improving much quicker if the Repubs would cooperate. All they have done since 2010 is obstruct, obstruct, obstruct!

    May 22, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  18. judy

    ol fish eye romney has no personality at all no knowledge of foreign policy and is no job creator. So whats to like? A mormon who untill the 1970's didn't even acknowledge black people they where all the evil sons of Hamm, who thinks a womens place is in the home making babies and treats gay people like they had a disese. Mr milk toast has no ideas and will change his mind at the drop of a hat depending on who he is talking to. Remember I stand by what I said even if I can't remember what it was I said. Some president that will be. Obama 2012

    May 22, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  19. nobama

    "They're nowhere close to a "dead heat." The only thing that counts here is the Electoral College, where Obama has a huge lead. All these polls about the popular vote are virtually meaningless."

    According to Nate Silver's 538 blog, 217 electoral votes are solidly Obama, 206 are Romney, and 115 are toss-up.

    May 22, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  20. John

    The Housing market results for April are the best news Obama could possibly get....a 3.4% month to month jump in sales and a national 10% price increase over prior April..........Unemployment is structurally stuck around 8% until the housing market heats up, and this sounds like it might be the start of something big.............Oil is down from 108/barrel to the low 90's and now this.............Romney is going to have a hard time screaming "chicken little" if this keeps up................

    May 22, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  21. nobama

    "I love how they just continue to ignore Ron Paul and his Delegate Machine..."

    The Ron Paul people just won't give up. Paul's "delegate machine" has racked up 119. Romney has 992. Paul is being ignored because he is irrelevant.

    May 22, 2012 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  22. Saboth

    @fairpol. "Obama’s policies have wreaked havoc on the middle class". You replace "Obama" with "Bush" in that diatribe you spouted, and you'd be on the money. Replace him with "Republicans" and you'd be right about "divisive". Honestly, does Fox really rot the brain that much? Romney is not a "turn around specialist". 25% of the companies he bought out went bankrupt. Only about 10 of them became successful. It doesn't take an MBA to slash jobs, outsource and break apart companies.

    May 22, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  23. John

    This is not close..............the popular vote is close, but unfortunately for Romney, that is because the deep south is pro GOP by a huge margin, but you don't need a huge margin to win a state, just a majority, so while the popular vote is close because of the overwhelming anti-black stance in the south, the electoral college prognostication is overwhelmingly in Obama's favor.........at this point about 230 to 170. With oil dropping from 108 to the low 90's and the housing market having their best month in 4 years in April, Romney's numbers will be eroding unless something else bad happens to derail Obama............it is almost all over except the shouting.................

    May 22, 2012 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  24. Stephen

    To answer your question Kim, asking/expecting any organization to conduct a 1 million person survey is silly. Secondly, a poll like this can give a somewhat accurate illustration of what is currently trending throughout different voting blocs.

    The only survey I'm interested in seeing is how independents are planning to vote. Obama won a large percentage of the independent vote in the swing states. It'll be interesting to see whether or not they can actually justify voting for him a second time...

    May 22, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  25. Kevin

    The people discussing the electoral college are right. Google "electoral outlook." Depending on the poll and whether they include various swing states, Obama currently has 248-280 electoral votes in the bag with 270 needed to win. Romney is badly trailing and is going to have to flip blue states to win. These votes polling random people are meaningless.

    May 22, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
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