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. babooph

    Back to a very close election,to let all the suckers think they had a chance with their ...

    May 22, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  2. Common Sense!!

    Obama sinking faster than a ship wreck!!

    May 22, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  3. Larry L

    The ability to face three facts will determine the choice for independent voters.

    1. The crash left behind by the Bush Administration was the worst recession since the 1930s – absolutely impossible to fix in just a few years. – made much more difficult by the Republican efforts to obstruct progress with over 110 filibusters in the Senate and Tea Party radical proposals from the Republicans in the House.

    2. Republicans intend to trash Medicare and Social Security. They plan to privatize those functions and hand them over to Wall Street. The rich do not need these programs.

    3. Republicans will fight a tax rate that makes the uber-rich pay a more fair share – pretending these "job creators" won't send their money offshore to foreign banks and manufacturing. Ronald Reagan supported the same sort of tax rate supported by President Obama.

    These are facts and the core of the 2012 election.

    May 22, 2012 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  4. Lenny Pincus

    Geez, I hate to counter this exciting news, but right now Obama has a huge lead where it counts, in the electoral college. In fact, just one glance at it and a normal person might say the race is already over.

    May 22, 2012 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  5. travis

    This race is already getting ugly.......and it will look mild mannered compared to what we will see in the near term.

    October will be the ugliest ever. It will be razor close unless something major breaks.....like another financial meltdown of a war.

    May 22, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  6. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    The questions that I don't see asked are: are you planning on voting? do you plan on getting other people to vote for your candidate of choice? That would be a more interesting question to ask and get answers to for me.

    May 22, 2012 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  7. CalDude

    Not good news for the incumbant to be in dead heat with the challenger.

    May 22, 2012 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  8. PaulC

    It is amazing to me that the people of Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Virginia, Tennessee, W. Virginia, who are tops in medicare, medicaid and food stamps usage would vote for a candidate who clearly says he will slash them all to pay for more tax cuts for the very rich.
    I can only surmise that they somehow think that the slashes will not affect them but only the "lazy" Democrats.

    May 22, 2012 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  9. inewt

    This illustrates the worthlessness of polls. Please stop lashing us with meaningless fantasy statistics.

    May 22, 2012 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  10. Brian, Nj

    The fact that Romney is losing the "moral character" part must be killing him. Here's a solid family man, 5 sons, long standing marriage, devout Morman and he is getting crushed in the "moral character" section of the poll.

    May 22, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  11. lyn

    There's only 1 question that people need to ask themselves: who and why caused the recession? If this question is asked and answered with complete honesty and no talking points, the choice is clear. It started under Bush/Cheney, 2 unfunded wars, unfunded pharmaceutical insurance and tax cuts for the wealthy and is now recoverying under Obama.

    May 22, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  12. SMJ

    Electoral College is all that counts. If President Obama wins ONE of the "up for grabs" big states, he wins. Bye, bye, Mittens and the GOP!!!

    May 22, 2012 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  13. Big George in Big D

    Well, we all know the msm is skewed in favor of the "rats". When they take polls, the pool is largely made up of democrats. Not a good picture of what's real.

    May 22, 2012 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  14. Hmm

    All I want to know when I am gonna be paying $2.30 for gallon of gas. Are you done Democrats? Obama? Either say its 210% inflation or make it gas at $2.30 per gallon.
    Obama and Dems can complain about Romney's Bain Capital but where is Obama's company? What none ? I thought so.

    May 22, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  15. Benjamin

    Bad news for an incumbent president.

    May 22, 2012 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  16. ThinkAgain

    "When asked which contender would best handle the economy, Obama and Romney were tied at 47%."

    This reflects Americans' desire for the easy fix Mittens is proposing: Just cut taxes for the wealthy and everything will be fine. No need for the rich to pay their fair share; just wait patiently for a better economy to magically trickle-down on you.

    It's magical thinking, pure and simple, especially when we've had close to 30 years of this voodoo economics, with the result being the income for the top 1% increase by 570% while middle class wages have remained flat (or gone down), millions of American jobs shipped overseas, and no concerted effort to create new manufacturing here.

    Time to grow up, folks. Republican economic policies don't benefit the average American (average Chinese or Indian, yes, but not us); in fact, they are PROVEN FAILURES.

    President Obama's policies kept us from going into a Great Depression, turned the economy around, kept it growing and resulted in 26 straight months of private sector job growth. It's going to be a long, hard slog – and the sooner we accept that and stop indulging the GOP's delusions, the better.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    May 22, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  17. simpleguy73

    Forget birth control or gay marriages! Let's start talking about the economy! J-O-B-S ~ JOBS!

    May 22, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  18. Cheryl Jefferies

    Your poll is sooo behind the times: a NY Times/CBS poll last week showed Romney ahead. And, other polls asking about who can handle the economy better shows Romney beating Obama by double-digits. Wake up and get real, CNN.

    May 22, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  19. Stoney

    How can this be? The media continues to portray Obama as well liked, doing a great job, and deserves another 4 years. Is the media missing something?

    May 22, 2012 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  20. ThinkAgain

    Mittens would have let the American auto industry go under, resulting in the loss of millions of supply chain jobs. He would have let thousands of houses foreclose so investors could buy them up at fire sale prices and rent them back to their former owners. His idea of "economic growth" is targeting companies for takeover, sucking out the assets, saddling them with debt and then walking away, leaving them to fend for themselves from a weakened standing.

    Mittens is for the investor class and their short-term profits. He does not stand for the average American worker nor the long-term prosperity of our country. He's deluded into thinking that somehow the profits of the rich will trickle-down upon us. He thinks "corporations are people, my friend" – even though he has yet to name the gender of Bain Capital.

    You want to stick your head in the sand and return us to the failed economic policies of GW Bush that brought us to the brink of economic collapse? Fine – it's a free country.

    If you want to keep the current economic recovery going, invest in our future and work towards the long-term prosperity of our nation, vote for President Obama and a Democratic House and Senate.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    May 22, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  21. Terry

    I Mitt Womney run Weally fast when da pwess comes toward me. I dont like da fact that dey want to ask me questiion about ebbything. They are weally weally mean. I am not goin to lose my skirt & talk to dem.

    May 22, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  22. ThinkAgain

    What's really sick is how hard the Republicans have been working to sink our economy so they can blame President Obama.

    So Republicans: Just whose side are you on anyway?

    May 22, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  23. Inpartial

    What they don't tell you in the article is the sample split:

    Today’s D/R/I is 32/22/38, which means this model would only be predictive for a turnout model where only 22% of voters are Republican. Just to remind readers, the 2008 turnout split from exit polls showed a 39/32/29 split, and that was considered a nadir for Republican turnout. In the 2010 midterms, the split was 35/35/30.

    May 22, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  24. Alois

    Truth be known,Romney is favord much higher than these polls show. A majoity of the people are tired of deadbeat obama and his super corrupt administration with scandles at every turn. This do nothing loser has squanderd millions of taxpayer money on bankrupt companys only to get donations to his campaign before they go bankrupt. Loser obama has kept the unemployment rate higher with his corrupt policies that aren' working.This country and the people have had nothing but trouble with this loser and his corrupt administration since being installed and now it's time for loser obama to go.

    May 22, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  25. tee27

    wow ! there is a report that Mitt will not release his past tax return from 1998-2011 because he did not pay any, That`s why he ask for a 6 month extension, This is crazy how can anyone vote for this guy there is no way i or anyone els get a 6 month extension on paying taxes this guy is a fraud,

    May 22, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
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