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. Hunter

    The only poll that I'm paying attention to is the actual poll on election day, Nov. 6, 2012.

    October 1, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  2. Make it sound close

    CNN, FOX, NBC, ABC,CBS need a close race. Wolfe Blitzer depends on being able to put up his "Breaking News" and being able to say "It is down to the wire.." All these "polls" are predictable and I am positive that Obama is much further ahead of Mitt than these "polls" indicate. There is a debate and television news needs high ratings. Even republicans know they have lost this election already.

    October 1, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  3. Patrick

    National poll TIED but down 3%? I love it. STATE polls, BG states is where Romney is in trouble. National polls mean NOTHING as we don't elect presidents on the pop vote!:)

    October 1, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  4. Michael

    Polls are usually worthless to Republicans when they show their guy is behind, but the moment the polls show what they want, they jump on it and rub it everyone's faces. Typical republican hypocrisy at it's finest.

    October 1, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  5. DJESQ

    If BO & JOE are re-elected, the nation will fiscally fail, go bankrupt, by 2024 (see CBO report) ...

    ... Children use personalities to make choices ...

    October 1, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  6. woodofpine

    We deserve to have Romney's tax records to see if he was part of the criminal tax amnesty of 2009; he won't release or say. Obama has had to sweep up a cluster F caused by policies Mitt still espouses. Has that been easy? NO! But does that mean we ought to return to them?

    October 1, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  7. Name. falcon

    In your wildest dreams! We don't elect based on national vote totals–electoral votes baby! It ain't close today. Nate Silver's 528 site is the gold standard to watch–the media just needs to keep this "it's so close" in order to keep ad revenues flowing in.

    October 1, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  8. Who me?

    Nice try CNN.If you are looking to boost veiwer-ship for your debate coverage,it's not necessary.The race is a blow-out in the key swing states and that is all that matters.Not to worry,we'll be watching,

    October 1, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  9. markusb

    I hope they spend a lot of time on the NFL replacement referees. About time our nation got down to something of import.

    October 1, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  10. josh rogen

    I don't know if the nation could survive a repeat of 2000.

    October 1, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  11. Bob

    Hmm, let's see. Bad economy, massive increase in national debt, funding rebels in the Middle East who turned out to be Al Qaeda sympathizers, Iran preparing to nuke Israel. We literally can't do worse than we have under Obama.

    October 1, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    The ever changing polls. I don't believe in them. I go by my own eyes and what I see is happening to this country, and I think most Americans do too. Obama doesn't stand a chance.

    October 1, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  13. A Bit Askew

    So Obama must be 10 points ahead, since the GOP were screaming that the polling was skewed. I guess now they'll say "oh, they fixed them, this is the correct numbers".. Notice it's the Lamestream Media.. until, you know, their guy is almost even with the president.

    October 1, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  14. snods-are-us

    Ask Romney if he had amnesty from the FED with regaurd to the UBS scandal of 2009... he should be in jail... and, while we are at it who else got amnesty? Romney won't show you his taxes because all the fines and back taxes are listed there. His taxe returns are a thesis in tax avoidence. Lying by omission is still lying.

    October 1, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  15. Retired Floridian

    This poll is irrelevant because the President is trashing Mitt the Millionaire in all 90 battleground states and has-therefore-already won re-election, especially with early voting and absentee ballots poring in. This is a "non-story" where CNN is trying to make news out of something of vcirtually no consequnce at all.

    October 1, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  16. darknesscrown

    I don't understand the media's desire to appear balanced. There's nothing wrong with the media jumping all over Romney for being the person he is. What's truly a disservice to information seekers is news outlets trying to remain "impartial" when it's virtually impossible to do so. Everyone knows that the platform Romney is running on is wrong, so why does the media feel it is necessary to pretend to be neutral. Romney is an idiot, Ryan is an idiot...their plans and views are incorrect and incompatible with what this country NEEDS to do. Obama is far from a golden child, but seriously, compared to Romney, Obama is god-like.

    October 1, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  17. John Mann

    "Obama, Romney all tied up heading into debates" is a logical headline for CNN and other news outlets because, afterall, "tied up" helps ratings. But tied up on a national poll means little. As many here know, it's the electoral college that matters and those EC polls currently show Obama doing much better than Mitt.

    October 1, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  18. cliff

    How is a 3 point lead a dead heat? Does CNN recycle articles? In March they posted this same EXACT headline. That's six months ago. Also when it was a dead heat then? Obama was up 2 points, now it's three and he's still in a dead heat. Way to play up an election that's not really all that close CNN.

    October 1, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  19. Klw

    Yet the national poll, which is always very close, means very little for the election (just ask Al Gore). Two sites which have very good track records and use models which include swing state polls and other indicators, 538 and Real Clear Politics, are predicting a minor landslide only slightly less impressive than 2008. According to RCP, Obama now only needs to win 5 of the remaining 82 "tossup" electoral votes left on the map and is currently projected to win all 82. According to 538, his chances of reelection are over 85% and if the election were held today, over 98%

    October 1, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  20. jnpa

    The media needs this statistical tie, so they made it one!

    October 1, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  21. Dee

    it's all about the electorals.. and as of all projections.. Electionprojection, 270towin, fivethirtyeightblogs, Pres. Obama is on pace for 330 electorals!

    October 1, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  22. G-Man

    According to various polls, major campaign issues for both parties include the economy, unemployment, taxes, and the $14 trillion federal debt. The Cable News Network web site reported, “President Obama’s tenure in the Oval Office has been defined in many ways by the economy and the worst recession in a lifetime.” That normally would be enough to bring down a president who failed to solve those problems in his first 4 years. Yet according to polls, Obama’s more charismatic and likeable than challenger Mitt Romney. That’s a great excuse to vote for someone who is running the country.

    October 1, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  23. USA

    Corporation like CNN needs this race to remian tight...just like they did everything possible to help Bush promote the Iraq war....CNN wants a republican to win so they have more wars and blood shed for ratings...

    October 1, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  24. Grinning Libber

    Baloney . POTUS Obama is well ahead. It's only a matter of how large a landslide.
    Nick Silver gives Obama a 98.1% chance if the election were held today.
    Will Mitt pull it out with the debates? Not a chance!

    October 1, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  25. ricardo1968

    I don't understand how anyone who was alive in 2007 would think that Romney would help the deficit or unemployment. The GOP has proposed nothing other than a continuation of the Bush era. Who the hell wants to go back there? Really?

    October 1, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
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