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August 08, 2012

Surveys Show Tight US Presidential Race as Party Conventions Loom

by Jim Malone

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. public opinion surveys show a close race for president between the incumbent Democrat, President Barack Obama, and his presumptive Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. The polls also show voters tend to personally like the president more but give a slight edge to Romney on handling the economy, which is by far the most important issue in the campaign. 

The latest Gallup daily tracking poll gives President Obama a narrow 47 to 46 percent lead over Mitt Romney with about 90 days until the election in November. There has been little fluctuation in the Gallup daily tracking poll since April, and analysts say that could mean the race will remain close until Election Day.

“Mr. Obama seems to be slightly ahead nationally and seems to be slightly ahead in more of the swing states than not," says Peter Brown of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "But it is not a huge lead.”

Brown’s latest polls in three competitive or so-called swing states also show a tight race. Romney holds a five point lead in Colorado, while the president is ahead by four points in Virginia and six points in Wisconsin.  Obama won all three states in 2008 and they are among about a dozen or so battleground states this year, where the presidential campaigns will focus their organizing and advertising activities. 

Brown says the race for the White House will intensify shortly with Romney’s expected announcement of a vice presidential running mate and the two party nominating conventions that will be held the last week in August and the first week in September.

“There are several events that will really determine this election -- Mr. Romney’s choice of a running mate and the Republican convention and the Democratic convention and how the two people come across," says Brown. "And then, obviously, the debates will be the crowning events of the campaign.”

Three presidential debates will be held beginning in early October plus one debate between the two vice presidential candidates.

Longtime political analyst Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News says Mitt Romney will try to use the Republican Party convention to reintroduce himself to American voters.

“I think Romney is going to get a bounce [i.e., a boost in his public opinion ratings] when he announces his vice presidential candidate and he is going to get a bounce from his acceptance speech at the convention," says DeFrank, who appeared on VOA’s Issues in the News program. "And I suspect that Romney will come out of that convention a few points ahead.”

DeFrank also notes that the polls show most voters have already decided which candidate they will support, with a relatively small pool of undecided voters left for the campaigns to try to persuade ahead of November 6.

“The bottom line to me is that President Obama has not convinced the majority of the American people that he deserves to be reelected," he says. "Neither has Governor Romney convinced a majority of the American people that he is up to the job of being president either.”

Both presidential campaigns and their allied fundraising groups, known as super PACs, or political action committees, have spent tens of millions of dollars running attack ads during the past several weeks trying to influence those undecided voters.  And experts say we can expect that to continue into November.