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. JAnGA

    I have to give CNN credit for the article. They've been burying news that some Democrats are a angered and frustrated by Obama's record. So the fact that CNN actually publish an article that says that things are not all rosy for Obama, that Obama needs to work on charming his own party is just short of a miracle.

    May 22, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  2. PTNY

    Does anyone see the headlines every day?
    The "Recession" is over...haven't heard that word in months, have you?
    Fuel prices are DOWN...wow, Obama did that?
    Home sales are UP!!! Unemployment is DOWN! Job growth UP!

    Oh, Republicans... All of the Failed policies, bad economy one liners you have been clinging to and campaigning on are almost non existent now. What will you do? What will you do?

    May 22, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  3. Obama 2012 - BEND Forward America, take another 4 long years of FAILURE

    Again, if Obama is doing such a great job then how come he's not way ahead in the polls? ==================================================================

    1. The American people aren't stupid.
    2. The American people have been paying attention.
    3. The American people have had enough of Obama's lies, excuses, fingerpointing, incompetence and divisiveness
    4. The American people won't make the same mistake twice.
    5. The American people don't want to live in a bankrupt European style socialist country.

    May 22, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  4. Observer91

    Despite what a lot of people on this blog are saying, Romney will not win the Presidency. There's the matter of the debates that still haven't taken place, and I'm sure Obama will swamp Romney in those. Aslo, the electoral college is what decides who will become President, not direct votes or polls. Obama will gain a majority of those. I like how everyone is talking only about Obama's failures or only about hs victories. C'mon people, he's had his share of both. Is he one of the greatest presidents we've ever had? No. Is he the one of the worst? Nope. Stop making stupid excuses and really try to understand both men and what they stand for. I've done my research of Romney, and though there may be some things about him that I agree with, if he really does want me to vote for him he's going to have to propose a better plan that "cut spending, lower taxes and deregulate." That wont work.

    May 22, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  5. Sujith

    polls..the same process that predicted a McCain victory in 2008.

    May 22, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  6. Bookenz

    Most Repubs voting for Romney don't even like him or even know his positions on the important issues. They just want a Democrat and a black man OUT of office.

    May 22, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  7. Steve- Illinois

    Recession: When your neighbor loses his job.

    Depression: When you lose your job.

    Recovery: When Barack Obama loses his job!

    May 22, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  8. phoenix86

    Since 49% of the people pay no taxes or are dependent on the public trough and the rest of the working American's, this is no surprise.

    May 22, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  9. Ratz92

    Whoever promises to topple the Syrian terrorist regime has my support. I get tired of the domestic front all the time.

    May 22, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  10. George Busch

    It wouldn't matter if Obama could walk on water, turn that water into wine or even raise the dead. The half of America that calls itself "conservative" would still not vote for him. It doesn't matter how good of a job he is doing, he is a democrat and he is black. Two things they hate.

    May 22, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  11. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    I am much more enthusiastic now about Obama's continuing his presidency than I was early in his first term. He has moved forcefully on issues of national defence while advancing social equality.

    May 22, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  12. ThinkAgain

    @Steve- Illinois: Republican economic policies are what got us into this mess in the first place (two unfunded wars, unfunded Medicare Part D, de-regulated financial industry, etc.).

    If you want to go back to these failed policies, go ahead, vote for Mittens.

    If you want to continue our nation's economic recovery and invest in OUR country (as opposed to tax cuts for the rich that finance economic growth overseas), then vote for President Obama.

    It's that simple.

    May 22, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  13. Lynda/

    Unless Romney gets his act together soon he's not going anywhere but back to whatever house he and Ann will live out their golden years together in, and it won't be the WhiteHouse. He is off message, off script, off character, and flailing around just as badly as he was during the primary. Proving that while he may have been a successful CEO of a private equity firm, he is unable and unfit to run a campaign - let alone a nation. Whatever he was as Governor of MA seems to have gotten shuffled in the wind. Apparently he wasn't all that successful in MA either. Guy can't seem to concentrate at all, and that alone spells disaster, especially for a future President of the United States.

    May 22, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  14. Larry L

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

    "Obama and the Democrats: Total and complete financial incompetents."
    The hole was dug by Republicans – as much as you want to forget George Bush was President for 8 years! The recession started BEFORE President Obama took office!

    May 22, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  15. Lenny Pincus

    In the Electoral College–where it matters the most–Obama is way up. Sorry, wingers.

    May 22, 2012 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  16. for freedom

    To PTNY,
    If you base all of your information from what you get fed by the main stream media, as it seems by your comment, then your life must be pretty Rosy since Obama is their darling. Unfortunately, us in the real world don't buy what you are trying to sell us about your President.

    May 22, 2012 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  17. Obama 2012 - BEND Forward America, take another 4 long years of FAILURE

    Larry L - The recession started BEFORE President Obama took office!
    You're absolutely right. It started soon after the Democrats took control of the House and Senate. Obama has doubled down on the Democrat insanity. All need to go or we are doomed.

    May 22, 2012 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  18. annie

    In response to PTNY:

    The "Recession" is over...haven't heard that word in months, have you?
    That's because the media is not reporting it. If you think the economy is strong, you're useless
    Fuel prices are DOWN...wow, Obama did that?
    Fuel prices are down from where they were 3 months ago... but still way up there compared to 3 years ago, or most points in history.
    Home sales are UP!!!
    Most of the home sales are foreclosures finally selling at fire-sale prices.
    Unemployment is DOWN!
    Unemployment is only down because they reduced the size of the labor pool, not because more people are working. It is a statistical trick. Look up the details and you'll see exactly how it's calculated.
    Job growth UP!
    Up slightly from the depth of the recession. 200,000 jobs in a normal month 5-10 years ago was a low number. WIth so many unemployed / underemployed (17-18% by some estimates), it will take us 20 years to get out of the recession with that kind of 'job growth'. There is usually major job growth after a recession. We aren't seeing it.

    May 22, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  19. Expat American

    Some Democrats may be frustrated with President Obama – because of his continuing efforts to perpetually appease the GOP who seem to be more concerned with obstructing any dialogue and regaining power than helping their low income uneducated base (and these are poor uneducated white folks who blindly vote for them). Not once has a Republican acknowledged the failures and lies of Bush – When the economy improves during President Obama’s second term, the GOP will turn towards character assassination much like they did with President Clinton – while still driving their big elephant bus over their base of bible crazies and cross burners yet a second time.

    May 22, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  20. fred37ify

    No worries ! A private poll of over two million people showed Barrack losing by 27% to 68% for Romney ! And this was mainstream nationwide poll !

    May 22, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  21. Andre

    Just to address something... I love how Pubs are all over this "poll" stuff. Out of 15 friends that I talked to, 14 will vote for President Obama, but 13 have never taken even one internet poll about their votes. What do polls mean? Absolutely nothing unless it's the November poll that really counts; so feel free to ignore all this nonsense and understand that President Obama WILL be a TWO TERM President whether you like it or not. Pubs, get ready to "gnash your teeth."

    May 22, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  22. mm

    They gave the Democratic incumbent higher marks on...'has the better moral character to serve as president'
    (52%-38%). NUFF SAID!!!!

    May 22, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  23. JeanneLH

    You can't clean up a mess that Obama inherited, especially when the GOP were meeting during the Inaugural Balls with a plan to stonewall everything "Obama". He tried reaching across the aisle. Finally, started getting things done without the GOP. We CAN"T go back to GOP leadership...there is none.

    May 22, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  24. msadr

    I think this poll does not bode well for Romney. His standing against Obama seems kinda shaky and he still needs to go through debates. Even his own party is reluctant to vote for him and Independents are looking to the Libertarians for a better alternative. Probably one of the stupidest things the Republicans did during this race for a nominee was to make a big issue out of abortion/contraception. Any woman who was riding the fence is now firmly against them and never coming back (me for instance). Economic ideology is certainly important, but basic human rights are drastically more important. Of course women prefer Obama. he might be trying to control our money but at least he's not trying to control our reproductive cycles!

    May 22, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  25. Lauren

    "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%)."

    Really? Why is there any hesitation then? Why would you elect someone that you don't consider to have the better moral character?

    May 22, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
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