Presidential Race Remains Close in POLITICO-GW Battleground Poll

Voters surveyed about key issues three days before the first debate.

October 01, 2012

The presidential candidates are two points apart with President Barack Obama leading Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney among voters at 49 percent to 47 percent, according to a new POLITICO-George Washington University Battleground Poll released today.

“It continues to be a race either side could win,” said Mark Kennedy, director of GW’s Graduate School of Political Management. “The upcoming debates are critical. It is important to keep a close eye on the campaigns in the next few weeks.”

As the candidates prepare for the first debate on Wednesday, the poll examined voters’ views of the candidates and the issues that matter to them most.

Obama’s job approval rating is divided evenly between voters at 49 percent approval and disapproval, while their overall impressions of the candidates themselves are 50 percent favorable and 47 percent unfavorable of Obama, and 46 percent favorable and 48 percent unfavorable of Romney.

“The president’s job approval rating is at parity. However, more voters strongly disapprove (43 percent) of his job performance than strongly approve (37 percent),” said Ed Goeas, Republican pollster and president/CEO of the Tarrance Group. “Romney has majority support from demographic groups that he needs to win like men (51 percent), white voters (55 percent), married voters (55 percent), middle class families (56 percent), those extremely likely to vote (49 percent), independents (47 percent), rural voters (53 percent), weekly (54 percent) and monthly (52 percent) church attendees, and battleground state voters (49 percent).

The candidates remain statistically tied on key issues such as the economy (49 percent for Romney and 47 percent for Obama), jobs (48 percent for Romney and 47 percent for Obama), taxes (49 percent for Obama and 46 percent for Romney), sharing values (48 percent for Obama and 45 percent for Romney) and the ability to get things done (47 percent for Romney and 45 percent for Obama). Romney leads on the federal budget and spending (50 to 43 percent), while Obama leads on foreign policy (52 to 40 percent), Medicare (50 to 42 percent), standing up for the middle class (54 to 41 percent) and health care (51 to 43 percent).  

“While the race will be close, President Obama goes into the debates with strong advantages,” said Celinda Lake, Democratic pollster and president of Lake Research Partners. “Voters like Obama better than his opponent, who is patently unpopular among women and blue-collar Americans. Voters also see Obama as a strong leader, especially on foreign policy despite last week’s vitriol, and solidly more on the side of the middle class."

The POLITICO-George Washington University Battleground Poll is a nationally recognized series of surveys conducted by Mr. Goeas of the Tarrance Group and Ms. Lake of Lake Research Partners. The George Washington University Global Media Institute, affiliated with the Graduate School of Political Management and the School of Media and Public Affairs, serves as the university’s home for the partnership. George Washington’s Gelman Library houses the data archive of the survey results dating back more than two decades.

The poll, which is distinguished from other surveys by its presentation of separate analyses from top pollsters representing both sides of the aisle, surveyed 1,000 registered likely voters nationwide Sept. 24 through Sept. 27, including a protocol for reaching mobile phone users, and yielded a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.

Click here for further analyses of these issues and full results.