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. kramer

    After Republicons prove over and over to Only favor the Top 1% Wealthiest
    by using Vulture Capitalism, Debt, Recessions, War and Bailouts to fully Exploit the 99%

    * How do they get almost HALF the 99% to Vote For THEM and against themselves and their own Interests.!??

    May 22, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  2. Liam

    @Rachel– because old, conservative white voters are very loyal and very diligent. They don't like to think and rather enjoy saying they're life long conservatives/republicans. Yeah the economy still sucks, but that's because our government doesn't work anymore. Our elected officials don't mean anything... nor does the public opinion. Oil and pharmaceutical companies are the only opinions that matter. Unemployment is still too high, but has been making progress for the past 8 months. Please don't be like those I referenced before and not acknowledge that.

    And the president doesn't control gas prices. Said oil companies who get tax breaks during record breaking profits do.

    May 22, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  3. streetdude66

    Romney promises to return this countrys economy to the way Dubya envisioned it. Obama against the gridlock of the GOP in the House is trying to get the economy back to the way Clinton envisioned it. Enough said.

    May 22, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  4. Marie MD

    I believe that the flip flopper is going to have a bit of a hard time hiding his money in overseas accounts. Not sure what is exactly going on but legislation(?) has been passed to make almost impossible for the super rich to hide their money and the push bzckm is coming from overseas banks because they no longer will be able to obstruct the little guy and the government about hidden money.

    May 22, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  5. dnick47

    re For America
    God hates anti-Christs. Therefore if Romney gets elected it will be a sign from the Almighty that He is very displeased with America and is about to rain down judgement. Oh Lord, smite the anti-Christ.

    May 22, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  6. Expat American

    What percentage of Romney’s support is recycled from those die-hard Palin (and to a lesser extent McCain) masses?
    That should mean something.
    Only in America.

    May 22, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  7. claude shepherd

    why does mitt wont to be press. for in the first place he got all the money that would keep ten people going for life. some people don't know when they got all they got anouth obama2012

    May 22, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  8. AWL

    Lets see: Successful businessman, knows how to profit, knows about efficiency, cuts the fat, trims the waste.


    Community organizer: Knows how to take from others to redistribute, but not how to grow it from the ground up.

    Easy decision. Wish I got it right four years ago.

    May 22, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  9. gg

    romneys a god in china

    May 22, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  10. Duh

    83 percent think the economy currently stinks to high heaven, but 47 percent prefer Obama to (continue) handle the economy? Either the people in this country are as stupid as their government wants them to be, or there is some kind of serious error in the wording of the economy-related questions in this poll !!

    May 22, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  11. jeffrey rice

    Ron Paul BEATS BOTH OF THESE SUCKERS!! It's like 2 clones against eachother in a beauty contest

    May 22, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  12. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    For three and a half years, the GOP and Mitt Romney have criticized President Obama's handling of the economy, saying the President is not doing enough to fix the economy! Well, do you republicans realize what President Obama has been doing for three and a half years, including working on the economy? Apart from working on the economy, the President has also spent three and a half years ending the illegitimate and costly Iraqi war, working tirelessly to end the costly Afghan war and working on a covert operative to take out OBL, all problems you republicans created! And that does not include working tirelessly and sometimes in vain to get bi-partisan support from a rightwing establishment that resufes to work with this administration. Therefore, if the President has been slow on improving the economy, its because a whole lot of his time has been exhausted cleaning up republicans mess!

    May 22, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  13. Stella

    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.

    Take a close look at the Republican representation in WaPo/ABC polls this year. Starting in January, that has been 25%, 23%, 27%, 23%, and now 22%. The pollster seems incapable of finding a representative number of Republicans for this poll series. Perhaps that should give the two news organizations involved a hint about finding a new pollster.

    May 22, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  14. Dav

    obama = communism and the welfare state
    Romney= individual growth and jobs

    May 22, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  15. george_w_tush

    Mitt to the disabled: Your handicap is someone else's gainWhere do I sign a petition to have Donald Trump be the keynote speaker at Mitt Romney's Republican National Convention?

    May 22, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  16. SgtSerge

    I love Americans..... Are they the most insane people on the planet? Americans are amazing at innovation and the love for America (which I share) but what is scary and makes Americans the most insane people on the planet..... is very simple.
    Talk to any American, pro Obama, Anti Obama and they will tell you that in Nov 2012 they know the outcome, they know that the American people are with them, no concept of reality at all. You people talk to a few like-minded people and somehow thing a country shares your views and the elections will prove it.

    BREAKING NEWS : No matter who wins it will not be a landslide for wither side, I wager under 10% difference, and who makes it as the POTUS in November is going to pale in comparison to the outcome in the house and senate.

    Now "The Most Insane People on the planet" may be harsh, but I hold America to a high standard that "most" Americans are not living up to right now. These politics are a signal of how broken the American people are, no one is dividing you, are already divided.

    I love America and Americans, and I hope they pull out of this, but until people start talking about what is good from each side and start being constructive, how can you expect the elected officials to do any better. They are public servants, please for the sake of America start treating them that way and take back America.

    Just my opinion, Good luck......

    May 22, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  17. Woman In California

    Sadly, a lot of people don't REALLY become involved until the general election. Then, and only then will our president's numbers RISE. Willard will fall apart during the debates because he just is not a strong candidate.

    May 22, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  18. JerseyBill

    To bring some civility to the campaign, both candidates should avoid topics they know nothing about. Thus, Romney should keep his mouth shut on community organizing and Obama should shut his trap on creating jobs.

    May 22, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  19. Flipper Rmoney Failure Ahead

    "Lets see: Successful businessman, knows how to profit, knows about efficiency, cuts the fat, trims the waste."

    Rmoney made "profit" by pigging out on corporate welfare and dumping pension obligations on the US taxpayer. What makes a weasel like that "qualified" to be president? Oh yeah, and serial killers are "successful" too. So what? We don't need a serial company killer as president any more than we need Charles Manson as president. Get a clue!

    May 22, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  20. ObjectiveGuy

    I see the usual squadron of paid Obama campaigners are out in force here again today, spreading the Gospel According to Saint Obama. Do you really think the voters are dumb enough to fall for his lies once again? God, I hope not.

    May 22, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  21. Flipper Rmoney Failure Ahead

    "83 percent think the economy currently stinks to high heaven, but 47 percent prefer Obama to (continue) handle the economy? Either the people in this country are as stupid as their government wants them to be, or there is some kind of serious error in the wording of the economy-related questions in this poll !!"

    Or it could be that voters are waking up and realizing the problems with the economy and debt are predominantly the fault of the GOBP cult, since those are actual facts and not opinion. Would you hire an arsonist to put out your house fire?

    May 22, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  22. SeeThruIt2

    Do we vote for someone who just complains about others using tax breaks? Or do we vote for someone who knows all of the tax breaks? Which one is more likely to raise revenue to pay down the government debt?

    May 22, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  23. Observer

    Mitt Romney's problem is Bain Capital! He is ignoring it at his own peril. I believe in capitalism, but not vulture capitalism. Capitalism must be checked. Raiding companies, loading them with debt and running away with massive profits is just plan wrong. After all it as the greed of capitalism that almost brought our nation to economic ruins in 2008, and guess what, he taxpayers bailed out the capitalist! Apparently the free market held out their begging bowls for government welfare when it was convenient for capitalists. Ummm! But now we must not debate the risks that it poses for everyone....... It's a losing argument. I hope with all my heart that the timid and bought media would engage the country serious analysis and debate about capitalism and free market. It is a responsibility that the media has refused to take instead they engage in trivial and sensational things.

    May 22, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  24. T. E. Lawrence O. A.


    "DEAD HEAT"? NOT if these Surveys accurately reported 'What would happen if the election were today' IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE. That is an enormous inaccuracy in these 'Dead Heat' Surveys – they only measure aggregate Popular Vote and Presidents are not elected by Nation-wide Popular Vote.

    Popular Vote is NOT the way Presidents are elected; it is through the Electoral College which, in turn, relies on a sometimes complex way of counting States and Delegates and the results of an actual Electoral College Survey would likely produce very different results.

    May 22, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  25. Flipper Rmoney Failure Ahead

    Stella, you are confusing turnout numbers with voter preference numbers. Since there are more Dems than GOBP cult members, pollsters deliberately poll more Dems. The 2010 turnout is pretty irrelevant, especially since it was not a presidential election year. In any case, some of those numbers are horrible for Rmoney, especially the lack of enthusiasm among the cult base. Despite this being obvious during the entire primary, CNN and the rest of our so-called "liberal" media underplayed this story or ignored it entirely.

    May 22, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
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