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. 2020

    Poll is poll. number game.

    On the ground, people are voting with their feet. 10:1 turned out Democrat. that poll is more reliable and real.

    October 1, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  2. science101

    Caution Democrats – the Republicans still have many tricks up the sleeve and are desperate to win.
    They will attempt to steal this election. Be vigilante.

    October 1, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  3. Julian

    A dream come true in Florida would be if Obama would win by 600 votes...., and since is my "dream" Obama would have a little brother which would be Florida Governor.............and the election would be won because of that......
    I don't know but I look like I had this dream before, but it was a nightmare instead....meaning Republicans won like that....was that real ?? Let me see and look the economy today......., ohhh yesss it was real and eveything went sour on US politics and economy after that....

    October 1, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  4. danieljsf

    Why does CNN let the right wing pull them by the nose? I don't believe things tightened up that much in such a short time.

    October 1, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  5. Pete

    It's funny how these polls change regularly even when nothings been done over the weekend.But if you watch the absentee balloting in Iowa its much different in democrates getting over 3x as many ballots as republicans and people at voting were actually happy saying they're we're voting democrates.Republicans on the other hand were fighting amongst themselves wondering just what was going on because of the hugh influx of just that democratic voters.So we'll see in a while the actual state count because Iowa is the political barometer in presidencial races..It'll change after the debates and it won't be a bounce,more like a thud for the Mormon moron,his mouth can't stay civilized for long and he'll crack like he did under Ted Kennedys constant political barrage.He's arrogent as well as ignorent and it'll show,he was nothing in the primaries around the other republican challengers in debates,he didn't win with the popular vote ,he just outspent them that's all!!

    October 1, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  6. Jim

    This is a nationwide poll that means little. Obama is ahead in all nine battleground states. That's what matters!

    October 1, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  7. Z

    CNN can lie all they want, this one is OVAH!

    October 1, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  8. JohnW

    50-47, within the sampling error. It's more exciting to say it's a statistical dead heat, even though within that error margin it's just as likely that Obama is up six points. Just say the president has the lead and stop there, please.

    October 1, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  9. Ismael

    This article screams for media attention now that America knows things are pretty much settled for the coming election. Nice try trying to make news where there aren't any.

    October 1, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  10. Marc Garrett

    Okay CNN:
    We'l ignore everything else we see and read, and watch your debate.

    October 1, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  11. Redneck Infidel

    You can just look at the internals of the poll to see how riduculous it is. 9% more demoncrats? That isn't going to happen this election. The latest Columbus Dispatch poll that shows Obummer up by 10%, interviewd 70% in the Northeast of Ohio, and only 14% in Southwest Ohio. Guess where the demoncrats live? These pollsters all have their agenda.

    October 1, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  12. Four and The Door

    Obama, by contrast... polls strongly on taxes, traditionally a GOP issue.
    This is just bizarre. People just didn't understand the question?!?! Seriously, are people really that confused?
    Here's my point, about as simple as it can be. Obama raises taxes. Romney lowers taxes. I'm sure the US Government would love to take your donations, but reasonable people would be more capable of spending their own earnings, don't you think?

    By some strange but very professional political spin, Obama may have people believing that he will only raise taxes on millionaires and that Romney will only cut taxes on millionaires, but if you believe that you are not paying close enough attention. First of all, a second Obama Administration will absolutely try to raise taxes on every working American and every American business. His Chief Economic Adviser pretty much already said so. "Everyone should pay their fair share."

    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. It's something he is very much more capable to manage because of his training, experience and the fact that he is able to work across the aisle to get things done.

    October 1, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  13. Jonathan Green

    The writer of this article is promoting propaganda. Two days before the debate now Romney is all tied up. B.S.! This man has run a poor campaign, has never outlined his plans for changing the economy, has gaffs, and now he is tied up. To the lame and unintelligent, don't believe the hype.

    October 1, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  14. TomGI

    If Romney wins, the US military is at war with Iran within 4 months.

    October 1, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  15. Pizzamn

    Oh Pahleeeze, CNN International Edition, no one other than Romney voters are buying this poll.

    October 1, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  16. Ed

    Its time to get it right America. We don't need to aplolgize to our enemies, we do not need a leader who followed Rev Wright and Bill Ayres. We need to get back on track. More jobs, less dependence on oil. Mitt can improve our country and get us back to where the United States was years ago. We gave Obama 4 years, he didn't do it. Our only "hope and change" is that Mr. Romney wins the election and that the Republicans gain control of The Senate and remain in control in The House of Representatives. America...WAKE UP!

    October 1, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  17. beevee

    The variations in voter opinios from week-to-week is very confusing. It could be the differences in the sampling demographics. I am not sure if there is any better way to assess how the voters feel about the candidates that is very reflective of how they might vote on November 6. However the consistently high poll numbers seems to favor president Obama winning the election. He definitely deserves a second term.

    October 1, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  18. Annoyed by Polotics

    37% Democrat, 29% republican

    Need I say more about the sampeling

    October 1, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  19. Billy Bob

    I bet there are a few of you out there wishing Ron Paul was still in the race. I know, I know, he's a crazy old man. I can't wait to hear your whining when either of these two candidates win this race. You got what you asked for – the media telling you that you had to chose between two AND who those two are.

    October 1, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  20. Pete Castelli

    Funny, big media wants coverage for debate, makes up "dead heat" poll, despite every other poll shows Obama much more in the lead, good try to change the facts CNN...

    October 1, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  21. Michael

    Ohhh suddenly things are in a dead heat just before a big debate! How shocking!

    October 1, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  22. athensguy

    doesnt matter. it is how the electoral college ends up being comprised... popular vote for president means nothing in the US

    October 1, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  23. sohappy

    C N N 10-1-2012 article "Economist Reluctantly pick Romney"
    Nine of 17 top economists surveyed by CNNMoney picked Romney when asked who's election would help the economy grow more. Only three picked Obama.
    Even c n n had to admit 0 is a failure

    October 1, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  24. cali girl

    this is just too much fun to laugh at this mess. Fox polls have had Obama up by minimum 6 points even when the MSM that everyone drones on about has them neck and neck. In the end, it is the one with the most electoral votes who wins, and the polls are not going by that.

    October 1, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  25. Jack from Illinois

    Uh huh, we're supposed to believe a CNN/ORC 'tied' poll when JUST YESTERDAY the SAME poll showed Obama with a three-point lead?

    (Yes, their weasel is 'margin of error' – what a copout.)

    EVERY major poll now has Obama ahead, most of them by MORE than their margin of error.

    CNN is clearly trying to drum up interest in a race that is virtually over, in order to keep selling advertising spece on their coverage of it.

    October 1, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
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