Final Gallup Poll: Romney 49, Obama 48

If we elected presidents by a national telephone survey using Gallup's likely voter screen, Mitt Romney would be a happy man.

If we elected presidents by a national telephone survey using Gallup’s likely voter screen, Mitt Romney would be a happy man.

Gallup (“Romney 49%, Obama 48% in Gallup’s Final Election Survey“):

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.

As many OTB readers may be aware, we actually elect presidents based on votes at the state level through a bizarre system crafted in 1789. So, the closeness of the race in national surveys really doesn’t tell us anything useful.

While the topline is irrelevant, though, some of the internals are interesting.


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.


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 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.

I don’t recall a Democrat being ahead of his Republican challenger on Election Day in the 30-odd years I’ve been paying attention; Obama’s lead here is decisive. And I don’t think it’s because Romney has flubbed the issue but rather because the public likes the way Obama has handled the issue in his four years in office. The fact that Obama is seen as decidedly more likable and better on foreign policy and yet Romney is ahead of him in the poll, though, shows how much people are weighing the economy in their vote.  If the state polls are any indication, though, it’s not going to be enough to oust a sitting president.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Budgie93 says:

    I’m thinking that Romney winning the popular vote is a very likely outcome here, but the EC will probably be 303-235

  2. Duracomm says:

    Obama is a civil liberties disaster that should lose based on that alone.

    The nice thing about a Romney win is that the media will suddenly rediscover the importance of civil liberties. They will stop ignoring presidential civil liberties abuses like they have during the Obama presidency.

  3. superdestroyer says:

    I am amazed that anyone is discussing demographics. What is amazing is how few wonks and pundits want to discuss demographics. However, given that the groups that overwhelmingly vote for Democrats are growing (poor, non-whites, single mothers, coastal elites) while the group that are open to voting for Republicans (college educated, middle class, married whites) are shrinking, there is no hope of a conservative party existing in the U.S.

    Since Romney is not leading by more than 3%, it should be obvious that Romney is going to lose. The only question is how badly Romney will lose. Then maybe a few pundits will notice how the Republicans have become irrelevant in national politics and that politics has transformed itself into a discussion on entitlements.

  4. Fiona says:

    The race seems to be pretty much the same as it’s been since Romney became the likely nominee–a close one that will come down to voter turn out.

  5. Holmey says:

    I think Gallup probably has shot itself in the foot as far as being a national voice of pollsters. Wonder if anyone there will lose their job as a result of this HORRID mistake.

  6. anjin-san says:

    Among 12 national polls published on Monday, Mr. Obama led by an average of 1.6 percentage points. Perhaps more important is the trend in the surveys. On average, Mr. Obama gained 1.5 percentage points from the prior edition of the same polls, improving his standing in nine of the surveys while losing ground in just one.

  7. James Joyner says:

    @Holmey: We won’t know whether it’s a mistake until tomorrow morning at least. And Gallup advertises a margin of error of +/-3. It’s quite likely to be within that.

  8. Kylopod says:

    As many OTB readers may be aware, we actually elect presidents based on votes at the state level through a bizarre system crafted in 1789. So, the closeness of the race in national surveys really doesn’t tell us anything useful.

    I don’t think that necessarily follows. Nate Silver has discussed why he tends to prefer state polls to national polls, but it’s not because our system for choosing a president is based on the electoral count. He notes three possible explanations for why (at least until recently) state polls and national polls appeared to be pointing toward a different winner: (1) We’re headed toward another split between the electoral and popular vote (2) The national polls are overrating Romney’s national numbers (3) The state polls are overrating Obama’s electoral numbers.

    Silver has argued that the second possibility is the most likely–that the state polls which show Obama’s electoral advantage also imply that he will win the popular vote. Silver has relied on this hypothesis even when Romney appeared to be ahead in many national polls. (Until just a few days ago, Romney had a small but consistent lead in RCP’s and Pollster’s averages of the national polls.) He has only given around a 5-7% chance of there being an electoral/popular split this year (in either direction).

    Silver certainly wouldn’t agree with you that national surveys don’t “tell us anything useful” about who’s going to win–he includes them in his estimate. Gallup may have its problems, but the fact that this is a national survey ain’t one of them.

  9. Franklin says:

    @James Joyner: I was actually more curious in what direction that Holmey thought Gallup was making the mistake!

  10. Geek, Esq. says:

    @James Joyner:

    It would be pretty hard to miss the popular vote total given a +- 3% cushion. But, Gallup and Rasmussen have been on an island all year compared to the other pollsters, and if Obama prevails in the popular vote, it’s going to be awfully hard for them to retain any credibility.

  11. Barbara Carson says:

    Isn`t it amazing what lying and cheating can do? If there was a poll in my community, Romney would be more like 80%. The people here believe Obama is a socialist Muslim from Kenya hell bent on taking their guns. You just cannot talk to idiots like this, but these are hard working people totally uninformed. They have no clue what is at stake if Romney wins. That is why I would love to have laws changed to lying will not be tolerated in government and on the news. No more should news organizations hide behind the loop hole of Entertainment. Some people listen to only fox and all the right wing talk radio, and they believe it is true. This is so dangerous.

  12. If you take the time to visit Gallup’s website you will find Obama is leading Romney among registered voters 49% t0 46%.

  13. Geek, Esq. says:

    @Raul X. Garcia:

    If Gallup’s RV screen is more predictive than their LV screen, the latter has to go to the scrap heap.

  14. RALPH LANG says:

    @Barbara Carson:

  15. Rob in CT says:

    No, pointing out that he’s a liar basically just means you can read and have a functioning frontal lobe.

    The problematic part of her post is her apparent belief that you can make such lying illegal. That’s got FAIL written all over it.

  16. KariQ says:


    I find that if I say something in all caps, I instantly gain credibility.

  17. Dog says:

    @anjin-san: @anjin-san obama has did nonthing for the country I think he may be the antichrist

  18. michel morgan says:

    Gallop poll is not the same as it was years ago. Today it is all most worthless.

  19. Danny says:

    @Barbara Carson:

    If Obama wins it will only because he is black. The blacks doesn’t care what Obama is. Just as long he is black. Even blind Christians are voting for him. If he was a true Christian I would vote for him. God have mercy on America if Obama wins.