Romney Leads Obama in 3 Latest Polls

Fox, Rasmussen, and Gallup show Romney slightly ahead of Obama. I'm willing to call it a trend.

I cautioned about reading too much into Mitt Romney’s lead over President Obama in the latest Fox News poll. With Rasmussen and now Gallup showing the same result, however, I’m willing to call it a trend.

Mitt Romney is supported by 47% of national registered voters and Barack Obama by 45% in the inaugural Gallup Daily tracking results from April 11-15. Both Obama and Romney are supported by 90% of their respective partisans.

These results are the first from Gallup Daily tracking of registered voters’ general election preferences, which began on April 11 and will be reported daily on on the basis of continuous five-day rolling averages. This initial report is based on interviews with 2,265 registered voters, and highlights the potential closeness of this year’s race, with Romney and Obama essentially in a statistical tie. Gallup’s previous general election trial heat, from a national poll conducted March 25-26, showed Obama with a slight 49% to 45% lead over Romney.

Gallup began tracking the general election on Wednesday, April 11, after Rick Santorum suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination, making Romney the all-but-assured GOP nominee.

RealClearPolitics doesn’t yet include this poll; they show the last Gallup snapshot which had Obama 4 points in the lead.

Given that the kerfuffle over whether stay-at-home moms “work” hadn’t erupted yet when the Fox poll was taken and that all three of the most recent polls show essentially the same margin, it strikes me as reasonable to conclude that the swing toward Romney is largely a function of his becoming Obama’s presumptive fall opponent. That simply elevates his stature from Some Guy to The Guy.

To be sure, as Frank Newport notes, this is just a moment in time and we’re way out from the poll that really matters, the November election:

History shows that the candidates’ positioning in the spring of an election year is not necessarily good at forecasting the election outcomes. For example, in an April 20-22, 1992, Gallup poll, incumbent President George H.W. Bush was ahead with 41% of the vote, compared with 26% for Bill Clinton and 25% for Ross Perot. And in an April 11-14, 1980, poll, incumbent President Jimmy Carter led Ronald Reagan by 42% to 34%, with John Anderson receiving 18% support. Both Bush and Carter, of course, ultimately lost their re-election bids.

Still, the current results, and the results that will follow as Gallup tracks the race on a daily basis, provide an excellent, scientific way to understand the dynamics of the election campaign, and the impact of foreseen and unforeseen events in the weeks and months ahead. And, at this point, the results show that the 2012 presidential election is shaping up to be a close race.

That last bit, boldface mine, is the key takeway here. I’m not at all confident that Romney has moved into the lead; indeed, I think Obama has the inside track to keeping his job and have thought that even before the economy started to improve and Romney reminded me how wooden he is as a campaigner. But it’s sure looking like we’ll return to the very tight races that we saw in 2000 and 2004 rather than the perfect storm of last cycle.

UPDATE: Less than two hours after posting this, CNN sends out a BREAKING NEWS alert that Obama holds a 9 point lead over Romney in its latest poll. Obviously, it’s an extreme outlier–and Gallup’s sample has been unusually pro Obama of late–but it’s worth noting as a counter to the trend.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Public Opinion Polls, 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 and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Hey Norm says:

    This country elected George Bush twice.
    We are more than capable of electing Mitt Romney.
    And really…war with Iran and an 18th century mind-set on the Supreme Court won’t be too damaging.

  2. anjin-san says:

    Romney Leads Obama

    How many ways will the right find a way to work this headline into the discussion, with or without the subsequent fine print?

  3. raoul says:

    The things about polls is the sampling; due to statistical variance some polls mat pick up more Ds and others more Rs. On November, this number will be about even (+/- 2%)-so one can actually gauge the poll accordingly. I will predict now a 52-47 O win since the D has outpolled the R 4 out of the last 5 elections . Recall that even Dukakis got 46. So all elections tend to be relatively close. Now a dirtly little secret, despite W 2000 win, the current electoral college framework actually favors D- so that even if O gets 48 he probably wins. Now this is for several reasons which is too long to elucidate; but a quick summary would be my home state Virginia- for many reasons- Virginia is very much pro Obama- and it tends to outperform national polls on the D side by 4-5- a number. Also Romney almost certainly needs VA to prevail-so in a 51-48 R election VA will probably still vote for Obama and thus theh presidency.

  4. Jr says:

    Sure……Mitt is leading by 3 points……yet is losing every major swing state (VA, OH, PA, MI)

  5. Chad S says:

    I’d like to see the state by state polls. Romney’s looking like fried chicken in those of late–even in NC and Colorado.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    The polls show what the polls show. The data is the data. I cannot spend the next six months arguing sampling. Life is too short.

  7. Jr says:

    @Chad S: Exactly, which is why I always take national polls with a grain of salt even when Obama was leading 6-10 points over Mitt, I always say look at the polls in the swing states that matter, and outside of NC……Mitt is losing every single one of them.

    Honestly, if the election were held today Obama would win by a similar margin as he did four years ago.

  8. Hey Norm says:

    As Dick Cheney said over the weekend, speaking directly from his Government Health Care provided heart:

    “…I can’t think of a time when I felt it was more important for us to defeat an incumbent president today with respect to Barack Obama. I think he has been an unmitigated disaster to the country…”

    I think Dick is correct. Let’s just appoint Romney today, based on these polls, and get on with it.

  9. James Joyner says:


    How many ways will the right find a way to work this headline into the discussion

    It’s just a bizarre question. Romney in fact leads Obama in three highly reputable national polls. Given that Obama was waaay ahead of all the Republican contenders before Santorum dropped out, it’s a pretty interesting factoid worth discussing.

  10. dennis says:

    @Hey Norm:

    We are more than capable of electing Mitt Romney.
    And really…war with Iran and an 18th century mind-set on the Supreme Court won’t be too damaging.

    Ugh, Norm. That’s my greatest fear . . .

  11. Drew says:

    The most level headed comment so far comes from my often ( as in almost always) time sparring partner, Michael Reynolds. Let’s not shoot the messenger. However, let’s also observe that we are only five minutes into the first period.

    After all, by beloved Hawks tied in the last five seconds, and then won in overtime the other night.

  12. Tsar Nicholas says:

    The only “poll” that matters is the one that occurs on the 1st Tuesday in November. Ask Gary Hart. Ask Michael Dukakis. Ask John Kerry. They’ll tell you the same thing.

  13. Chad S says:

    @James Joyner: Rasmussen and Fox aren’t reputable.

    According to the poll, 52% of registered voters say if the presidential election were held today, they would vote for the president, with 43% saying they would cast a ballot for Romney

  14. I think the poll result is interesting because it gives a glimpse at the less politically connected (and perhaps less informed). For them, it would seem Romney is coasting out of the primaries unscathed. If anything, he might be carrying a “less crazy than ___” boost, relative to his GOP opponents.

    That’s not as good as it could be for the Democrats of course. For a while there (up until a couple weeks ago) it looked like the primary had damaged Mitt. Apparently not.

    And so Obama has to get out and actually run for President 😉

  15. Hey Norm says:

    CNN is out with a new poll that has Obama up by 9 points.
    Still…I think we need 8 years of Romney.
    What harm could a lot more supply-side economics do?

  16. al-Ameda says:

    What a coincidence, those 3 polls are widely considered to be conservatively oriented in their polling results.

  17. PJ says:

    Rasmussen is highly reputable?


  18. anjin-san says:

    It’s just a bizarre question.

    Bizarre? This is coming from someone who claims Fox & Rasmussen are “highly reputable”. What color is the sky on the planet you are posting from today?

    Despite a vast advantage in funding and experience at this level, Romney had a major dogfight with Santorum, a borderline nut job with no money, no organization, and a resume on which his most recent accomplishment was getting run out of his own state on a rail.

    The GOP has a narrative to create – one which makes the rather frail and anemic looking Romney a contender. Fox was first up to bat. One day the headline was “It’s Romney” the next it was “ROMNEY LEADS OBAMA*” (*in fox poll). Fox is a vast feedback loop. They tell a story in one segment, and in the next they report the story they just told as news.

    The Fox & Rasmussen folks are doing what they are paid to do, producing results pleasing to GOP rainmakers. Cue a Frank Luntz focus group chock full of hard working folks who love America. They will say things like “The more I see of Mitt Romney, the more I like him”, and “That Obama just reminds me of Jimmy Carter.”

    This is all about shaping perceptions, and I think you know it is. Now that the fight card has been set, people who are not political junkies are starting to pay a little attention. If I am getting paid to do marketing for the GOP, I want people at the water cooler saying things like “I heard Romney is ahead”, and if I have to fudge a bit to get them to say it, I will do it. You are choosing a subset information that gives you the headline that supports the message. This is a little more than sharing a “interesting little factoid”.

    You have your part to play James, you are a respected Republican moderate, a species that is observed only slightly more often than the passenger pigeon. Rasmessen gets paid to show polling results skewed towards conservatives. Part of your role is to call Rasmussen “highly respected” with a straight face. I guess theres nothing wrong with that, we all have a job to do. But if you are going to bat your eyes and say “who, me’? you should probably do it before an audience of undergrads. They might buy it.

  19. James Joyner says:

    @anjin-san: I’ll grant that Rasmussen results have been rather odd of late (it wasn’t always thus). It’s something that I’ve noted before. But a lot of their bias is a function of applying a “likely voter” screen well before the funsie media polls do.

    That Romney had trouble in the primaries against some weird opponents says a little something about Romney’s inability to connect–but more about the Republican nominating electorate. Most of have have thought it would be a tight race in the fall if he emerged, though, and the very early indication here is that it’s shaping up that way.

  20. anjin-san says:

    and the very early indication here is that it’s shaping up that way.

    If you can back that up with state by state data, it will be a lot more compelling. Can you?

  21. grumpy realist says:

    If we elect Romney in the fall, we deserve whatever happens to us.

    I’m about to throw the towel in on the US and go find somewhere else to watch its slide down to Religious Dumbfukistan mediocrity. You want to hand the handling of the economy over to a bunch of clueless idiots whose idea of economic policy is Tax Breaks Now, Tax Breaks in the Future, Tax Breaks Forever? Whose idea of foreign policy is to bomb the ^&%^!! out of countries whose names start with vowels? Who think that a top-notch science and technology base can be maintained by people who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible and refuse to believe in evolution, no matter how much evidence they’re presented with?

    Yeah, right. I’m sure the Chinese will be very happy with us…

  22. Tsar Nicholas says:

    @anjin-san: Dude, you seem nervous. You shouldn’t be. Think about it: What are the worst things that could happen? Romney gets elected, the GOP takes over the Senate, Romney replaces Ginsburg and Breyer, respecively, with Allison Eid and Paul Clement, and then over the next decade all major traces of leftism are expunged from the law books.

    Oh, right.

    That aside, I realize that my opinions neither are worth anything to you nor any potential solace to you, but assuming nothing changes between now and Election Day I don’t think you’ll have to face the sum of your fears. On demographics alone it’s hard to envision Romney winning both Florida and Ohio, and without those two states it’s inconceivable that he’d win the presidency.

    Of course if net job growth slows to a standstill and if layoffs continue their recent upwards trend then Katy bar the door because in those events it’s likely in fact that we’ll see a change over at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Cue the imperial theme music.

    @grumpy realist: Grumpy, you’re about to jump the shark tank. Step back from the edge, Mitt Romney won’t ever be confused with Terry Jones, Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson. The same way that Obama won’t ever be confused with Reverend Wright or with Bill Ayers. That all said, since you apparently have enough vast wealth and no entanglements such that you simply could pick up and leave and become an ex-pat might I suggest to you Costa Rica. Low cost of living, although for you that presumably wouldn’t be an issue. Beaches to die for. Weather to die for. You can get by without even learning Spanish. Then again, you can say the same things about various areas in San Diego, CA. Food for thought, is all.

  23. PJ says:

    @James Joyner:

    But a lot of their bias is a function of applying a “likely voter” screen well before the funsie media polls do.

    Which is how they push certain views.

    1. Set up a likely voter screen years before the election.
    2. Oversample certain groups in that screen.
    3. Use that screen when asking any kind of question.
    4. Win

  24. the Q says:

    I don’t get it with some of you. Lets compare 30 year eras, 1952 – 1982, a completely different governing philosophy forged by the Depression, the New Deal, the absolute zenith of liberal “socialist” redistributive, middle class accommodating policies vs. 1982 – 2012, 30 years of conservative, supply side, war on regulations, laissez faire capitalism infused with a class arrogance that begets redistributive, rich uber alles policies.

    Please, show me how any of you wingnut boomers can possibly (assuming of course a modicum of subjective intelligence – ok forget that last phrase) argue that the “reagan: era vs. the “FDR: era was better for the vast majority of working middle class Americans.

    And please don’t give the “world was a different place then argument” when Canada and Germany currently practice many of the New Deal policies in this “new world paradigm” and their middle class ithrives under these policies.

    And the fact that the brain dead Democrats haven’t been able to nail and destroy the Repubs on the “class warfare, rein in the rich greed” issue, is the singular political mystery of my lifetime.

  25. matt says:

    And the fact that the brain dead Democrats haven’t been able to nail and destroy the Repubs on the “class warfare, rein in the rich greed” issue, is the singular political mystery of my lifetime.

    Well duh dude they are too busy sucking at the rich teat too..