PRINCETON, NJ -- President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are within one percentage point of each other in Gallup's final pre-election survey of likely voters, with Romney holding 49% of the vote, and Obama 48%. After removing the 3% of undecided voters from the results and allocating their support proportionally to the two major candidates, Gallup's final allocated estimate of the race is 50% for Romney and 49% for Obama.
The survey was conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking Nov. 1-4.
Much of this year's campaigning has focused on women and swing voters, and the race concludes with each candidate holding equally strong advantages with one gender and closely matched in support by party identification. Romney holds a 10-percentage point lead among men, 53% to 43%, while Obama is winning by nearly the same margin, 52% to 44%, among women. The two are roughly tied among independents -- 46% favor Obama and 45% Romney. Each candidate has the strong support of his own party, with 96% of Republicans backing Romney and 93% of Democrats supporting Obama.
Romney's Debate-Period Surge May Have Run Its Course
Current voting preferences mark a return to the status of the race from Oct. 1-7, when Obama and Romney were tied at 48% among likely voters. After that, Romney moved ahead in mid-October during the presidential debate period, holding a three- to five-point lead in Gallup Daily tracking shortly before superstorm Sandy devastated many areas on the East Coast Oct. 29-30. Romney's and Obama's current close positioning in the Nov. 1-4 poll was measured as the Northeast continued to recover from superstorm Sandy, and after Obama's highly visible visit to the region.
Between Oct. 22-28 and Nov. 1-4, voter support for Obama increased by six points in the East, to 58% from 52%, while it held largely steady in the three other regions. This provides further support for the possibility that Obama's support grew as a result of his response to the storm.
The poll also shows Americans giving Obama high marks for the way he dealt with the storm: 68% of likely voters approve of the way he handled "the response to Superstorm Sandy," by far his highest approval rating on any of four issues Gallup asked about in the final poll. Obama's approval rating among likely voters on the other three issues ranges from 46% on foreign affairs to 42% on the economy, and 39% on handling the situation in Libya.
Obama's overall job approval rating is 49% among likely voters, and 52% among all national adults in the Nov. 1-4 poll. Historically, presidents with a job approval rating above 50% in Gallup polling prior to an election have won their bids for a second term; however, given the Republican advantage in voter turnout this year, and Obama's resulting 49% approval among likely voters, his national 52% approval rating may not necessarily put him into the safety zone.
One in 10 Voters Still Won't Commit to a Choice; 33% Have Already Voted
Three percent of likely voters in the final poll are undecided, expressing no candidate preference. Another 7% name either Obama or Romney but say they are not totally certain they will vote for their candidate of choice and they could change their minds, even at this late juncture. By 94% to 92%, Romney voters are slightly more likely than Obama voters to say they are certain in their vote choice.
Thirty-three percent of likely voters interviewed Nov. 1-4 say they have already voted, while another 6% still intend to vote before Election Day. Early voters' preferences closely mirror the overall result, with 49% having already cast their ballot for Obama and 48% for Romney. As Gallup.com previously reported, there are highly significant differences in the rate of early voting by region, extending from 9% in the East to 50% in the West, with 25% early voting in the Midwest and 43% in the South.
Given practical difficulties in reaching a representative sample of portions of the region affected by superstorm Sandy, Gallup did not interview between Oct. 29 and Oct. 31, and resumed interviewing Nov. 1. Gallup carefully monitored the sample throughout the Nov. 1-4 survey period and determined that the coverage problems did not produce any political bias in the resulting sample that required a correction.
Obama, Romney Tied on Favorability in the Final Days
Underscoring the tightness of the race, Obama and Romney have equal 52% favorable ratings among likely voters. Gallup has shown that the candidate with the higher favorable rating usually wins, but the similarity of the two candidates' images provides no such guidance this year.
Obama's and Romney's images in likely voters' minds across a range of three personal characteristics and six issues underscore the candidates' basic positioning, which has been evident throughout this election campaign. Despite the two candidates' equal favorability scores, when Americans are asked who is more likable, Obama wins by 12 points, although this gap has narrowed over the course of the campaign. Obama also holds an eight-point advantage as the candidate better able to handle foreign affairs. Romney scores six and nine points higher than Obama as being better able to handle the economy and the deficit, respectively.
The two are more closely matched on the dimensions of being a strong and decisive leader and being better able to handle taxes as well as healthcare. Romney has a slight advantage on being able to work well with both parties to get things done in Washington, while Obama has a slight advantage on Medicare.
In the end, one of the most crucial questions that can be asked about a political officeholder seeking re-election is whether that person deserves to be re-elected. In this case, 48% of likely voters say Obama does, while 51% say he does not.
Gallup finds a statistical tie among likely voters in its final presidential election survey of 2012, suggesting a very close battle in the national popular vote, and raising the possibility of a split between the popular vote and the Electoral College outcome. The race is not only close overall, but has Romney and Obama holding equally strong advantages among men and women, respectively, and closely matched among political independents. This suggests that turnout of partisans could be particularly important in deciding the election, with Romney poised to benefit slightly more if they do, with 96% of Republicans backing him, as compared with Obama's 93% support from Democrats.
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This report was written by Frank Newport, Lydia Saad, Jeffrey M. Jones, Jon Hughes, and Jenny Marlar.
Results are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 1-4, 2012, on the Gallup Daily Election Tracking Poll, with a random sample of 3,117 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of error is ±2 percentage points.
For results based on the total sample of 2,854 registered voters, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of error is ±2 percentage points.
Results for likely voters are based on the subsample of 2,551 survey respondents deemed most likely to vote in the November 2012 general election, according to a series of questions measuring current voting intentions and past voting behavior. For results based on the total sample of likely voters, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 250 cell phone respondents and 250 landline respondents per 500 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, population density, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized U.S. population. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
View methodology, full question results, and trend data.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.