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. Liked this comment

    Another Romney lie to boost him up to keep the public interested. No major gaff, no sudden heroic act, just another day in the day, so how and why is Romney still relevant and polling even with this president, I tell you why, same old racial bias. Help the white guy out even though he's a lying tax cheat, draft dodger, flip flopping, no core, no foreign policy intellect, greedy, selfish trader to the american people by hiding his blood money in off shore account to avoid paying his fair share of taxes, investing in china and pointing the finger at the black guy who is doing a great job in spite of all the obstruction and unfounded slander by the extreme right out dated party of "No".

    October 1, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  2. Genna

    when has to presidency ever been decided by the popular vote, I thought is was based on electorials?

    October 1, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  3. jorge

    Sum up how much taxes has paid Obama and how much Romney. Then we can talk.

    October 1, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    No matter what the facts are, call it a "dead heat" = CNN Mission Statement.

    October 1, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  5. ThinkAgain: Hey, networks, fact-check the debates in real-time and put it in the crawl!

    The debates will make a huge difference, when voters will hear live and unscripted:

    President Obama discussing all the accomplishments of his administration, from bin Laden being dead to GM being alive, to 30 straight months of private sector job growth and the Dow over 13,000


    Mittens trying to deny he said that he thinks half of our country are blood-sucking ticks and that it is somehow not a contradiction that he has simultaneously claimed he's empathic because he passed Romneycare – which is the basis for Obamacare – which he will repeal on his first day in office.

    I'm looking forward to Wednesday night. And hey, networks, fact-check the debates in real-time and put it in the crawl!

    Obama/Biden 2012 = The only sane choice

    October 1, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  6. jorge

    OK It would be nice to see how what amount of taxes has paid each candidate.

    October 1, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  7. Mittens Rmoney

    Vote for me so I can pay 0% in taxes on my millions in investment income! I want to be a government freeloader too. Thank you.

    October 1, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  8. jackthegeek

    I only believe the results when people casts their vote ...

    October 1, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  9. mike

    Barry is GOING to lose. There is no doubt. Reagan was MUCH "further behind" in 1979 than this....and BLEW AWAY Carter. And Carter was better than this communist. Game set match.

    October 1, 2012 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  10. was for obama now for romney

    so sad O couldnt get it done...we had a chance to prove liberal ideas and we blew it.....give the moderate romney a chance.

    October 1, 2012 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  11. Jboy

    This is meaningless. The electoral college map on this site lists states like Ohio and Wisconsin as "tossups" when all polls indicate that the president is beating Romney in both states.

    October 1, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  12. BryantB

    While the national polls may be tied, it's the battleground states that will decide the election and Obama is ahead in all of the batteground states. In particular, he's ahead in PA (not a battleground), FL, OH, and VA. While the political press media (including Fox News) keeps suggesting that Mitt Romney has to do "something" to re-introduce himself to the electorate, it's too late. Early voting has begun and 30+ states, and President Obama holds a national and batteground state lead over Romney. While it's premature to call the race over, however, I think everyone in the political establishment (including Karl Rove) knows and acknowledges in their internal circles that the presidential race is over.

    October 1, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  13. Scott in Michigan

    Can you Dems read? Look at the methodology – Dems oversampled by +8%, which would be a record Dem turnout, and we all know that will not happen. And, Romney up 8% on the Independent likely voters. If you unskew this poll, Romney is winning by a sizeable margin. Big disappointment coming in a few weeks for the Dems.

    October 1, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  14. Steve

    The media is trying to do all it canto keep it close.

    October 1, 2012 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  15. MDDD

    Obama Biden 2012

    October 1, 2012 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  16. us_1776

    Voting for the GOP is like voting for the 14th century.


    October 1, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  17. mike electrician

    This is just a way to build up ratings...so "we" must see the showdown!!...The way Charlie Cook stated it, if the President wins Ohio, then MITT will have to run the table on the rest. Or if the President wins Florida, then MITT has to run the table. Pretty tall order...

    October 1, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  18. Klw

    This is just an attempt to sell the debate. The national polls mean nothing when Obama is leading in all of the swing states and only needs one or two of them to win the election.

    October 1, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  19. The Real Tom Paine

    The key is not in the popular vote, its electoral votes. ( swing states will determine who wins, and Romney is losing virtually all of them, even according to FOX.

    October 1, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    Hugo Chavez, in his own words said "If I were American, I'd vote for Obama." That seems so fitting... just a pair of arrogant socialists out to create as much redistributed entrophy as possible. One with a stick, one with irresponsible schmooze.

    October 1, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "Well there goes your liberal media bias."

    Indeed. The pantwetters in the GOP/Teatroll party need to realize that the REAL bias of CNN and the rest of the MSM is determined by what generates the most ad revenue. For Faux Noise, the model is blatant bias and pandering to the GOP/Teatrolls and they've essentially cornered that market. In order to make up for it, the rest of the MSM has to lpay the false equivalency game, in hopes that treating even the most blatantly false, hyperbolic, fact-vacuum nonsense from the GOP/Teatrolls as though it needs to be discussed as though it's a legitimate point or issue. The FALSE EQUIVALENCY PARADIGM IS A FORM OF BIAS...and THAT is the type of bias that controls the vast majority of the MSM...not this imaginary liberal bias that the Teatrolls get all butthurt about whenever the MSM makes a mistake and accidentally reports a couple facts that show the radicalized righties are full of turd.

    October 1, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  22. Norm

    I must say..Mitt Romney is very pretty man.
    if this was a beauty contest he would win no problem.

    October 1, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  23. Eric

    This to me is the scary part of the election when the media begins to deliberately try and influence the race to make it closer. Can't we say the truth and tell people that polls show Obama leads in a number of battle ground states that Romney needs to win to have a chance? Why should we care about national polls? C'mon CNN.

    October 1, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  24. freidamurray

    Hiow can that be? All tied up!!! Mitt should be so far behind that he shouldn't even show up in the polls. UGH!

    October 1, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  25. Rashid

    Ok CNN...you're all idiots all lost your minds. National numbers don't mean anything since red states like MS would favor Romney in a larger margin than some blue states would favor Obama. The real numbers are in swing states where POTUS is ahead by about 10. Election is over. STOP THE HYPE and BS.

    October 1, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
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