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. Sarah Palin

    I I can see Obama's victory from my house. If we're lucky, our Tea Party brothers and sisters in Congress will be able to keep up the filibustering for another four years. Just long enough for me to get my campaign up and running.
    Palin-Snooki 2016

    October 1, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  2. tstorm92

    There's a reason Obama is winning. Romney is offerning nothing for the middle class. He trips over his words and looks lost like a deer in headlights when confronted for an explanation to any of the policies he and Ryan would like to put upon this country. The only people voting for Romney would vote for Hitler if he had an "R" next to his name...

    October 1, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  3. Rosslaw

    A national poll has as much relevance as polling voters in Estonia. Obama leading Mittens by ten points or more in a decisive swing state like Ohio-that's news that gets the attention of people who know what's going on.

    October 1, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  4. Madrep

    The last couple days, the Lib media networks ALL stated Oblameo ahead by 8 points here, 6 points there. Didn't mention a biased Poll but most of us know better than to believe anything they publish anymore. Close to a violation of the First amendment and something should be done about it. NOW, it's all tied up. Of course, no matter the outcome, Obama will be reported as the winner by these same networks. See you in November Lib media. You should be ashamed of yourselves for coddling Oblameo and hiding the real truth behind the economy, Fast & Furious, Libya, Wright, All his Executive Orders, Jarrett's security protection and none for an Ambassador, etc...

    October 1, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  5. mike

    538 is the only poll forecast that matters, and they have Obama crushing Romney.

    October 1, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  6. mark

    i think that the swing states will be the most notable thing to watch, ohio and florida, obama's lead keeps widening.

    October 1, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  7. Klw

    Just ask Al Gore: The national poll means nothing. It's all about winning the swing states. Models based on swing states favor Obama to win every state he won in 2008 except for one or two – another small landslide.

    October 1, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  8. Bryn Anderson

    BREAKING NEWS !!!! "Current polling indicates one hundred percent of Americans are sick and tired of polls!"

    October 1, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  9. Mike Diana

    Yea right now its a tie, Romney will lose big time. Can't even tie his shoes, Gee why can't airplanes have windows that open. You want that goof in the WH

    October 1, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  10. Archived

    As stated by some of my more learned peers, these polls really don't say much. The Presidency is decided by who secures more votes in the electoral college, not the popular vote. Everything I have seen shows that the President is leading by a healthy margin in all of the swing states. That is where the election is won. Everyone knows that CA will go blue and TX will go red, the question is who will ultimately win the battlegrounds.

    October 1, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  11. chilly g

    the poll that really count at this point is in the battle ground states of florida,ohio,virginia,colorodo,nevada,pennsylvania
    north carolina,and the president will win all of these states,north carolina will be closer that the other states
    but if the president win carolina bya large margin then me and my wife will be buying our vacation home in the carolinas.
    because if the good peoples of the carolinas elect obama twice then as black americans not african american we feel
    welcome and safe. and i never been to africa.

    October 1, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  12. mike

    According to FiveThirtyEight (which nailed the last election, including Congressional races), Romney only has a 15% chance of winning this thing.

    October 1, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  13. Madrep

    @Pilgrim, not true. Do some research before spouting off on how little tax Romney pays. While you are at it, do some more research on how much he gave to charity...which is more than Obama and Biden combined by a bunch.

    October 1, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  14. Matt

    This is an incredibly misleading headline. Show me the swing state tallies and then tell me if they look "All Tied Up"

    October 1, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  15. Toocutebyhalf

    Any time you want to manipulate the polls, define likely voters differently. It's up to the pollster to make that definition. If you want closer numbers, then define likely voters with a more republican profile. Since likely voter profiles skew more republican, that's bad news for Romney and good news for the President.. Obama is ahead in a Republican poll.

    October 1, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  16. Larry I in L.A.

    I am 51 years old, and this constant dissection of polling data and obsession with the "horse race" aspects of Presidential politics has gotten worse with every election. I'm not in a sports book, wondering if I should bet on Romney and take the three points. I want the media to tell me much more about what these men stand *for* (with specifics!) regarding the important issues facing our country, and much less about where they stand in a popularity contest.

    October 1, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  17. chuck

    I sell all you libtards from CNN are trying to comfort each other into thinking that Obozo has a chance. If it make you sleep better at night, go ahead and think it, however, come November, you are all in for a rude awakening. Romney in a landslide....and you guys know it!

    October 1, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  18. Strangways

    absolutely incredible that America would be dumb enough to give the Republicans another try after the disastrous 8 years of Bush – especially a candidate who is pandering to the joyless hard Right, and made a laughable debut on the world stage a few weeks ago. Oh well, if it happens you deserve it.

    October 1, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  19. AZLlib

    Yea right.. Come CNN stop bowing to your GOP advertisers and for JUST ONCE report the actual news. There is not a poll in the country EVEN ON FOX NEWS that puts these two on a equal standing. This is exactly why the US needs an unbiased news services just like the Brits have the BBC...

    October 1, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  20. OneTiredAmerican

    Obama failed to provide clear leadership as he had no clear vision of issues at hand. Economy; sure, he inherited a bad economy, however, he faield to put forward a viable plan to restart the economy. Stimulus plan of $800B but it failed to kick start the economy. What's needed is an incentive for busiens to expand in US; and this can be in form of tax break/reform, reduced regulations. And no I'm not talking tax breaks to rich. BUt let's face it our tax polic is in shambles. Foreaing Policy – only vwin he has is he captured OBL. But Pakistan is still supporitng Taliban/AlQueda and killing Americans. And yet we still provide $Billion in aid. Health care – why are employers burdened with healthcare? Why not make healthcare insurance like auto and home. Let folks get insurance on the open market. And yes, pre-existing condtion will be covered.
    These are real problems and we need a different way to solve these problems. Obama had his chance and now his time is up. In my opinion, Romney will do a beter job.

    October 1, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  21. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Romney is going to bow out of the race after Rafalca kicks him in the head. That is, the other one.

    October 1, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  22. lefty avenger

    Looks more like a close battle for last place than for first.

    October 1, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  23. Julia from NYC

    Hmmm... Romney at 47%?

    October 1, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  24. Len


    You are so right! From day one..... the white racial folks in this country could not stand having an African American President.....The sadest part is , we have congressman and senators from day one who wanted to take this man down.

    America, please wake up and realize what racism can do to our future and country. We let them win in 2010, please donot let them win in 2012! Obama/Biden in 2012!!!!

    October 1, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  25. dan

    780 people? it should be illegal to even report on these findings. waste of time reporting this.

    October 1, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
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