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. moose

    the lack of excitement is mitt is not very exciting I can see him boring overseas officials to death already the other might be that its 6 months away. I don't see excitement over mitt every happening the right will vote for him or not go to booth at all just to be that way Dems will vote Obama and middle will vote Obama not much to like about Mitt Bush was dumb but everyone thought they would like to have a beer with him Mitt cant even relate on that level he is the guy that shows up gives a speech after his company has cut 50 percent of the staff and says how things will be better and stock holders (him ) will be better off and company will be so strong then 6 months later does it again cause orders can't be made and contracts are lost then blames who is left for being lazy.

    May 22, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  2. Ty


    We were fooled in 2008-not again. Obama has headed the economy in the right direction. He is the biggest spending prez in history and has no intention of ending his spend and borrow policies.

    GUESS You don't know not. Please Research your facts before you make a comment. You was not fool because you did not voted for him , being a lower thinker and don't what to reserch the facts is all on you. The President has done a good job. Some of his policies i don't agree with, but that's okay. I do believe in him and he is for the PEOPLE.

    May 22, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  3. medicvet

    Let me see, one if a certified job destroyer and member of the 1%, the other is of the people, by the people, and for the people. One wants to privatize social security and medicare, and the other wants to save it. One wants to take away a woman's right to choose, the other will fight FOR the rights of all women. One is a member of a party that is enacting such onerous so called "voter fraud" laws that it disenfranchises the most minorities since the days of jim crow, the other has extended basic civil rights to the LGBT community. The answer should be clear as to who to vote for: OBAMA 2012!

    May 22, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  4. NCP

    What in the world are people thinking? A guy with vitually no experience in economic matters (except OJT running a failed "stimulus" saddling us with more debt) is TIED with an accomplished professional who has created jobs (yes, the "totality" of Bain's record, as Corey Booker said, has been positive and a net job producer). Success in business = more jobs = a "fair shot" for everybody!

    May 22, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  5. 2cents4free

    I seen to recall the polls had Obama tied with McCain in 2008 until election day. We all know how that went lol. Btw Romney lost to McCain.

    May 22, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  6. papanez

    I can't believe the people responding here who continuously state, wrongly by the way, that this President has been devisive. What a crock of garbage that is! Since the day McConnell uttered his, "my job is to make this president a one term president," the GOP has done everything in its selfishness to obstruct and divide this country. The health of this nation, both figuratively and literally, are of little to no importance to the GOP. Sad, isn't it.

    May 22, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  7. Roger

    How can this even be close? The only choice is President Obama – the thoughts of what Mitt Romey and his republican/tea party cohorts would do to this country is too frightening to think about. It's time to wake up America – the republican party does not have a viable candidate this cycle – President Obama deserves a second term and a democratic majority in the Congress to help him. These obstructionist Tea Baggers have put a real damper on progress for America. Obama/Biden 2012 – the one clear choice!

    May 22, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  8. Steven

    Romney and republicans keep talking the economy down.Sure it could be better but considering where it was in 2009 when Obama took office the difference is night and day.Here are a few points that are positive Romneyites never seem to want to speak about.Inflations low,gas prices are falling,domestic energy produtions up,natural gas exploration is boomming,interest rates are at all time lows,housing sales are surging,24 months of job growth,foriegn oil dependence is down,there are over 3 million job postings out there unfilled,consumer confidence is up,your 401k is worth way more than in 2009,banks have good balance sheets,companies have seen record profits,foreclosures are the lowest since 2007,GDP has held a steady positive pace,exports have improved,more people have HC,home values have stabilized and the dollars worth more.Sure things could be much better,but since its being the republicans # 1 job to oust Obama like they said more than once on camera.Not working with him to actually help make things better,I blame them just as much if not more for a slower pace of economic recovery.

    May 22, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  9. Thomas

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

    Could you vote for a person who wants to be commander in chief , when that person and family all avoided voluntary military service on the grounds of there religion ?

    I will not , I don't want to live in a cast system , this is America not India .

    May 22, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  10. 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.

    May 22, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  11. tibs

    Obviously they are both terrible. Just absolutley awful. I want Obama to win just because i hate the republicans more.

    Either way, our economy will hit a wall this next term. Our entire economy is a function of spending borrowed money. Its like if i lose my job, then instead of finding another I just put everything on my credit card. Then I show my wife the bill and say, "look honey, look how good were doing!"

    The boom is the problem, the recession is the cure. Fighting off a period of saving and economic restructuring (recession) will ultimately lead to harsher suffering during the inevitable bust. The sooner we fact the music, which is without a shadow of a doubt coming, the shorter our pain will last.

    May 22, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  12. NeedNewGov

    Can't wait to see that first debate. Everyone will be glued to their sets.

    May 22, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  13. The Left Wing

    @Ethernet Elect Romney and get 4 new years of crap. Actually, Romney would bring back the policies that allowed Bush to turn a surplus to a deficit, and cause the great recession. Romney's plan to lower taxes on the wealthy, raise military spending, start a war with Iran not if we have to but if he can, curtail all financial and environmental regulations, and cut all social programs if he can (which he'll fail to do fully) will balloon the deficit and cause us to go over the economic cliff that we have been slowly edging away from.

    May 22, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  14. skeptical

    A lot of confident people on both sides. Will come down to a few independent voters in key states

    May 22, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  15. vote the Tea Party OUT in 2012

    if you really trust these polls I got some swamp land here in SE Texas for sale, CHEAP. For example for months they claimed Obama was as high as 16points ahead of Romney with the woman vote......now all of a sudden after 5 days it's tied or even Romney slightly ahead. So all these women changed their minds in 5 days, huh? Polls tell most folks what they wamt or don't want to hear and all people polled are not honest..the REAL poll is in Novemember that really counts.

    May 22, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  16. Obama 2012 - BEND Forward America, take another 4 long years of FAILURE

    @ Obama 2012 – BEND Forward America, take another 4 long years of FAILURE and Ethernet .
    Could you vote for a person who wants to be commander in chief , when that person and family all avoided voluntary military service on the grounds of there religion ?
    I will not , I don't want to live in a cast system , this is America not India .

    So I take it you voted for McCain in 2008? yeah, right.

    In case you hadn't heard, the USA has an all volunteer military (for decades). People make their own choices on whether to pursue military service. Had Romney told his sons to join, you'd be accusing him of bullying them into it. Enough with this nonsense. It's rather pathetic.

    May 22, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  17. Lizzie

    Thomas, so you condem all those who won't serve in the military, which is most all the OWS demonstrators and those demonstrators in Chicago, yet you probably have not served either. Pres.Obama did NOT serve but you don't have a problem with that, he never had a real job in his life unless you count community organizer or Senator in Illionois
    who voted PRESENT almost every time, if he voted at all, or maybe the 2 years that he served in the senate in Washington where he made filibusters an art form. Yet he in your eyes is qualified to run this country.

    May 22, 2012 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  18. ??Facts??

    I don't get you people. You all get yours facts twisted up when making comments. First this is not a cnn poll, it's not a fox poll, this was a Wash. Post/ ABC poll. The simple fact is, any sitting persident that shows tied 6 months before an election is in trouble. When it comes from a source that is clearly in his camp then it is panic time. 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.

    May 22, 2012 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  19. Obama 2012 - BEND Forward America, take another 4 long years of FAILURE

    papanez - I can't believe the people responding here who continuously state, wrongly by the way, that this President has been devisive.
    I can't believe you are so blind to reality. Obama has pitted just about every segment of our society against another segment of our society. It is a play right out of his leftist progressive play book. Black against white, hispanic against white, rich against poor, straight against gays, government against business, young against old, and he's not done yet. I'm sure he'll concoct more in order to get the peoples attention of the lack of jobs and the horrible trajectory he has set this country on, bankruptcy.

    May 22, 2012 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    Obama will pull away once the debate starts. He really needs to focus on the debt and spending. unfortunately taxes need to be raised, and spending needs to be cut. Its unfortunate politicians dont have the guts to explain it to the american people and the american people are too blind to realize what needs to be done.

    May 22, 2012 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  21. Iconoclast

    I think Romney's "pranks" at Cranberry Academy or wherever he went serves as a very ironic metaphor for what he did all those years at Bain Capital and threatens to do to the American public now. Just another forced "haircut" from a bully and his bully friends. That's what he did to the companies Bain bought and it's what's coming to the rest of us if he has any chance at all (which thank God he doesn't) if elected.

    May 22, 2012 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  22. Thomas

    Once again the polls show the race close so the media has to put some unrelated spin on it. Enthusiasm? Give me a break. And I'm sorry but if you want to accept that Obama's 47% approval rating is good and his approval of of 47% on handling the war then you've settled and obviously don't expect much from a president. Further why are they still polling people about Bush? It's 3 1/2 years into this administration. Time for them to start taking a little credit for both the good and the bad.



    May 22, 2012 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  23. greg

    If the media admits they are tied, then Romney is now ahead.

    For weeks they were tied – before Obama came out on gay marriage. Now Romney is in the lead, and CNN won't admit it.

    May 22, 2012 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  24. Woman In California

    Ron in California

    It's all about the independent voters. Let's hope they realize they are not better off than they were 4 years ago.

    You're right and as an independent, I AM better off than I was 4 years ago. Biggest raise to date, biggest bonus and stocks looking positive AGAIN.
    Thank you.

    May 22, 2012 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  25. 2020

    2008 was historical. With such a disaster at hand, the 'THROW OUT THE BUMP' mentality was overwhelming. This time around, the President has done well, despite the economy recovers slowly but steadily. (thank god, it is not part of the Euro zone), and compared to a corporate moran whose only focus and interest is finding a weak one to gobble it up. As an ordinary family, I don't need to yell or pound, like the President, stay cool and vote for continued recovery. THAT IS IT. To try Romney, our chances of success is less than 50%. America is not that stupid.

    May 22, 2012 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
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