Commentary Magazine


Poll Roundup: Presidential Race Tightens

It’s the strangest thing. The media already declared this week that Mitt Romney lost the election, but the polls still seem to show the race tightening. First, from today’s USA Today/Gallup poll, which has Romney trailing Obama by two points in the swing states:

Registered voters in key 2012 election swing states remain closely divided in their presidential vote preferences, with 48% supporting President Barack Obama and 46% Mitt Romney. Other than a nine-point lead for Obama in March, the two candidates have been essentially tied in the swing states throughout the campaign.

Gallup’s daily tracking poll also finds Obama leading Romney by one point nationwide. Note that both of these polls were conducted among registered, not likely voters, which means they are more likely to favor Obama:

Gallup Daily tracking of registered voters nationwide now finds Obama at 47% and Romney at 46%, suggesting a fading of Obama’s post-convention bounce. At this point, it is too early to tell what impact a newly released video of Romney’s unflattering characterization of Obama supporters from an early 2012 fundraising speech might have on the race.

Today’s AP/GfK poll of likely voters has a similar finding. Obama leads Romney by a single point:

Obama is supported by 47 percent of likely voters and Romney by 46 percent, promising an all-out fight to the finish by the two campaigns to gin up enthusiasm among core supporters and dominate get-out-the-vote operations. That’s an area where Obama claimed a strong advantage in 2008 and Republicans reigned four years earlier.

That’s not to say there aren’t signs of trouble for Romney. We still don’t know how the potentially-damaging “47 percent” video will impact the numbers above. He’s down by five points in the NBC/WSJ poll of likely voters, which came out last night but was conducted before the video dropped. He also appears to be losing ground on economic issues, at least according to the AP/GfK poll.

But as the media has been saying for the past couple of months, there aren’t many undecided voters out there to win. The race will largely come down to turnout, and while Romney’s “47 percent” remarks could potentially depress some of his support, the narrative that he’s losing by a landslide (when polls show he’s not) isn’t helpful for Obama either. Much of Obama’s get-out-the-vote efforts rely on frightening his base about the prospect of a Romney presidency. If they falsely believe that Obama has the race locked up, there’s also less incentive to turn out at the polls.