October 1st, 2012
03:59 PM ET
10 years ago

Battle for presidency remains close in new CNN poll

Washington (CNN) - Two days before the first presidential debate, a new national survey indicates a very close contest between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the race for the White House.

And according to a CNN/ORC International poll, neither candidate appears to have an edge on the economy, which remains the top issue on the minds of Americans and which may dominate Wednesday night's debate on domestic issues in Denver.

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Fifty-percent of likely voters questioned in the CNN survey, which was released Monday, say that if the election were held today, they would vote for the president, with 47% saying they would support Romney, the former Massachusetts governor. The president's three point margin is within the poll's sampling error.

Three other national polls of likely voters released in the past 24 hours also indicate a tight race. The other surveys are from ABC News/Washington Post, Politico/George Washington University, and American Research Group. A CNN Poll of Polls which averages all four surveys plus a Fox News poll released late last week puts Obama at 49% and Romney at 46% among likely voters.

In the CNN/ORC poll, the national horse race stands pretty much where it was just before the two back-to-back party conventions in late August and early September.

"That's a strong suggestion that whatever bounce President Obama received from his convention has, as expected, faded away," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "That's why they call them 'bounces'."

When it comes to issues, the survey indicates that Obama and Romney are effectively tied when likely voters are asked which candidate would best handle the economy. Romney, however, appears to have an edge on the top two economic issues: unemployment and the budget deficit. Obama, by contrast, has the advantage on a variety of non-economic domestic issues such as education, Medicare and health care, and also polls strongly on taxes, traditionally a GOP issue. All of these issues will most likely be debated by the candidates Wednesday night.

The president has a 52%-45% advantage over Romney on foreign policy, which will be the focus of the third and final showdown between the two candidates on October 22.

But debates are not just about issues; voters judge the candidates' personal qualities as well. Among likely voters, Obama's personal favorability rating is 52%, with 48% saying they view the president in an unfavorable way. The president's numbers are basically unchanged since mid August, before the conventions.

The public is divided on Romney, with 49% holding a favorable impression of him and 50% seeing him in a negative light. Romney's favorable rating was at 50% and his unfavorable at 46% in mid-August.

When the dust settles after the debates, it will all come down to turnout and getting out the vote, and the poll suggests when it comes enthusiasm, neither campaign seems to have the upper hand.

"Only half of Romney's voters strongly supported him in May, but despite that slow start, he now gets the same level of strong support from his voters that Obama enjoys," adds Holland. "And there is no indication of an 'enthusiasm gap', with 65% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats saying they are extremely enthusiastic or very enthusiastic about voting in November."

The poll indicates Democrats overwhelming supporting the president and Republicans overwhelmingly backing Romney, with independent voters going for Romney by a 49%-41% margin, which is within the sampling error for independents.

According to the survey, Obama holds a nine-point 53%-44% advantage among females, with Romney with a 50%-47% margin among men. Romney had a larger edge among men in CNN polling prior to the conventions.

"The president seems to have held onto some of that support among men, opening the possibility that their votes may be in play. Obama also held onto most of his bounce among rural voters, but they are still solidly in Romney's camp. On the other hand, Obama's biggest losses since the Democratic convention have come among lower-income voters and urban residents - two key elements of his coalition," says Holland. "But it's worth noting that support for Obama in those groups is back where it was before the conventions, indicating that the Democratic convention mobilized that portion of the Democratic base but only temporarily."

The president's approval rating in the new poll stands at 49% among all adults, with 48% saying they disapprove of how Obama handling his duties in the White House. The president's approval rating stood at 50%-44% before the conventions.

In addition to the three presidential debates, Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican running mate, face off next week at a debate in Kentucky. The poll indicates that Biden has a 47% favorable rating, with 44% saying they see him in an unfavorable way. Ryan has 46%-40% favorable/unfavorable rating.

The CNN Poll was conducted by ORC International Sept. 28-30, with 1,013 adult Americans, including 883 registered voters and 783 likely voters, questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points, with a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for questions only of likely voters.

- CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2012 • CNN/ORC International poll • Mitt Romney • Polls • President Obama
soundoff (293 Responses)
  1. Patrick in Wisconsin

    blake, just quit your wining and your obsession over conspiracy theories. Facts are facts. Admit it. Romney's done. Better luck in four years.

    October 1, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  2. George Sales

    Of course it's all tied up, you guys are looking for "the big home stretch" advertising dollars. The President in a blowout!!!

    October 1, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  3. Mr. Moderate

    The most interesting thing I have seen in my town in Pennsylvania is that the vast majority of yard signs for what I assume to be Romney voters are anti-Obama signs (Stop the War on Coal, Preserve Freedom, that type of nonsense) rather than pro-Romney signs. Its hard to win an election with a base that hates the other guy more than they like you.l

    October 1, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  4. lovespandas

    @1doctor – if you don't live hearing the mentioned people telling the truth, then why are you listening to them? I don't want to hear lies, therefore, I will NOT listen to Chris Matthews or anyone else on MSNBC for that matter. None of which would know truthful reporting were it staring them in the TeleprompTer.

    October 1, 2012 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  5. FactCheck

    @Four and The Door – Second of all, Mitt Romney is on record saying he will lower taxes 20% for everyone. And he will eliminate a large number of tax breaks for the higher earners so that they end up paying overall about the same taxes as now. How can he do this? By growing the economy and reducing the cost of government.

    And I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I'd like to sell you if you are this gullible.

    Every independent cost analysis that has been carried out on the Romney plan concludes that the lower taxes can only (and partially) be covered by eliminating nearly all deductions that middle class families are eligible for. heck, Mitt himself is ON RECORD as saying this in a stump speech in Ohio.

    October 1, 2012 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  6. readon

    Some conservative Christians still have problems with Romney's church. He is neither Protestant or Catholic
    and people wonder what the book of Mormon is all about.

    October 1, 2012 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  7. RudyG

    I have some doubts about Romney: I have NONE about Obama. He's basically, a smooth talking, inept liar. Hope and change have become "Ball and Chain" for the economy.

    October 1, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  8. snoozie

    Hey, republicans. I though you said the polls were fixed?

    October 1, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  9. julnor

    I thought Obama won the election last week.

    October 1, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  10. Keeker

    Well I hope and pray that Romney does a good job on the Rebats. Obama will destroy our country if he gets re-elected

    October 1, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  11. Thanos

    Romney is not presidential material. Period.

    October 1, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  12. skmind

    Surfdog says "America needs NEW leadership, no more debt , and not more taxes"

    That is code for "I am voting Republican". Of course, it does not make sense, but then voting Republican stopped making sense a long time ago

    October 1, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  13. Vern

    The job of the media is to keep interest in the election, even when it's obvious, by looking at he state-by-state breakdown, that the race, right now, isn't that close. Romney has in his column one large state-Texas. The rest, where's he's comfortably ahead, are relatively small states, like Kansas, the Dakota's, Alaska, Montana. Obama, on the other hand, has New York, California and New Jersey, Michigan and Pennsylvania sewn up. He has above-the-margin-of-error leads in Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia, Florida and Nevada. And he's losing in Iowa and Colorado. He's even in North Carolina.

    So, while that headline may give hope to Romneyites, it doesn't show the real story. And the real story, right now, is that Romney's chance of winning is slim, and slim is getting ready to leave town.

    October 1, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  14. FactCheck

    Billions to failed solar companies. No new tone in Washington. Fourteen million out of work, and a jobs program that creates 1 million jobs at best.No balanced budget in any one of his 4 years in office

    You forgot to add the costs of two unfunded wars, the Bush tax cuts and Medicare part D. As long as you're blaming him for this other stuff, why not go the full distance with your Fox News talking points.

    October 1, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  15. lucianne

    Actually, during the Obama administration, more jobs were created by private industry than during the previous administration. However, the main job loss has been the public sector. I can't figure out why anyone would vote for a guy who says he'll cut taxes and reduce expenses – and he'll let us know what expenses he will reduce after he is elected. A pig in a poke? Oh, yes. How many of you want to pay the full cost of your water, sewer and electricity, or give up your mortgage deduction?

    October 1, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  16. notogop

    Any reasonably good Teapublican conspiracy theorist would immediately know CNN is showing this poll to make certain the Dems will not become complacent and get out and vote. This is something Faux Noise might want to run with.

    October 1, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  17. dennis

    Gas price in town hit $4.23. It was under $2 when Obama took office. Record unemployment, record number of people on food stamps, Mid East in ashes. Obama is too busy to met with forgien leaders but shows up for the View and a Las Vegas fund raiser. Guns from the US linked to boarder agents deaths. Record national debt. VS. killed BinLadin

    October 1, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  18. bspurloc

    mittens doesnt have enough delegates to win anything.....
    that is that matters.... NOT that mittens would get the popular vote like Gore did....

    October 1, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  19. Randy, SAn Francisco

    Thanks to the Electoral College the race may not be that close if President Obama continues to expand his lead in the swing states. The final electoral college count will not reflect how close the tofal nationwide vote is for the two candidates.

    October 1, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  20. Vern

    And what a crazy world. CNN is saying in their poll that it's almost tied up, and FOX shows the president 9 points up!

    October 1, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  21. Sandra LeVin

    It amazes me that so many people think Obama has done a great job. A few of the things that come to mind: Apologizing to our enemies. Misinterpreting the "Arab spring" as a movement toward democracy. Alienating our allies (especially Israel.) Bailing out GM – (by the way, GM owes the taxpayers billions of dollars.) Fast and furious. "Reverend" Wright. Bernadeen Dorn. College transcripts (if Romney can be badgered by people over his tax returns, why can't we see college transcripts? And why the delay and mystery about producing a birth certificate?) Failed foreign policy in the Middle East. Cover up of Sept 11th attacks on our consulate and murder of an ambassador and Navy Seals. An economy that is just wallowing along the bottom with little change in unemployment. A president who refuses to take responsibility for his almost 4 years – everything is Bush's fault (Obama campaigned for this job and once he had it, it was excuse after excuse.) Not attending security briefings. Not meeting with Netanyahu but having time for "The View." Holding only two Cabinet meetings this year and for someone who claims to be laser-focused on the economy, he's not met with his Jobs Council since January.

    Is Romney my first choice? No. Do I think he'll be a great commander in chief? Probably not. But I also think the media has capitalized and expanded on anything they can to make him look worse than he is. And right now, I would take ANYBODY OVER OBAMA and his socialistic ideologies. And anyone who wants to call me "racist" be my guest.

    October 1, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  22. Smartstar

    Jeezus...a statistical dead heat! And to think Obongoner was leading by almost 10 points last week! Romney's gonna win this thang yet!

    October 1, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  23. Daws

    Who are these people that waffle back and forth so easily? Sheesh...

    October 1, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  24. keeeleee001

    Think about this: Obama has already had his chance. Now is time for him to move on.
    Give somebody else a chance!

    October 1, 2012 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  25. Regster

    This article is nothing but a ploy to boost ratings for the first debate and with no substance. CNN should learn from BBC on how to disseminate news of relevance.

    October 1, 2012 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
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