Romney Takes Lead In Latest Pew Research Center Poll

From the Pew Research Center comes another poll showing Mitt Romney surging in the aftermath of last week’s debate, and, more significantly, taking the lead for the first time in a national poll:

Mitt Romney no longer trails Barack Obama in the Pew Research Center’s presidential election polling. By about three-to-one, voters say Romney did a better job than Obama in the Oct. 3 debate, and the Republican is now better regarded on most personal dimensions and on most issues than he was in September. Romney is seen as the candidate who has new ideas and is viewed as better able than Obama to improve the jobs situation and reduce the budget deficit.

Fully 66% of registered voters say Romney did the better job in last Wednesday’s debate, compared with just 20% who say Obama did better. A majority (64%) of voters who watched the debate describe it as mostly informative; just 26% say it was mostly confusing.

In turn, Romney has drawn even with Obama in the presidential race among registered voters (46% to 46%) after trailing by nine points (42% to 51%) in September. Among likely voters, Romney holds a slight 49% to 45% edge over Obama. He trailed by eight points among likely voters last month.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Oct. 4-7 among 1,511 adults, including 1,201 registered voters (1,112 likely voters), finds that 67% of Romney’s backers support him strongly, up from 56% last month. For the first time in the campaign, Romney draws as much strong support as does Obama.

More interestingly, the debate seems to have caused Romney to make gains against the President in specific policy areas:

Similarly, Romney has made progress on the issues. He and Obama now run about even on dealing with health care, Medicare, foreign policy and taxes. Obama led on most of these issues by significant margins in September. Romney also holds a significant 49% to 41% advantage on improving the job situation, despite the fact that most of the interviewing was conducted after the October jobs report, which showed the unemployment rate falling below 8%.

Romney also has once again opened a double-digit advantage as the candidate who can deal with the budget deficit (51% vs. 36%). Romney led by 14 points on the budget deficit in July, but had lost that advantage last month.


A substantial majority of voters continue to say that Mitt Romney’s policies would help the wealthy, but he has made gains since the summer in the perception that his policies as president would help the much-discussed middle class. In July, just 41% thought Romney’s policies would help the middle class. This has risen to 49% in the current poll; a comparable percentage of voters (50%) say that Obama’s policies would help the middle class.

Three-quarters of voters say Romney’s policies would benefit the wealthy (75%), basically unchanged from July (74%). Far fewer (31%) see Obama’s policies benefiting the wealthy. Conversely, two-thirds (66%) see Obama’s policies as likely to benefit the poor, compared with 39% who say the same about Romney’s policies.

And, perhaps, most significantly, the debate seems to have eliminated many of the likability problems that Romney has been suffering from since the campaign began:

The edge in favorability ratings that Barack Obama had enjoyed throughout the campaign has now been erased, as voters’ impressions of Romney have continued to improve while Obama’s ratings have returned to levels seen earlier in the summer. Currently, voters are about evenly divided in their overall opinions of both Obama (49% favorable, 48% unfavorable) and Romney (50% favorable, 46% unfavorable).

While shifts are evident across many demographic groups, there has been a notable change among women voters: In September, just 42% viewed Romney favorably, while 60% had positive impressions of Obama. Today, about half view each of the candidates favorably (51% Obama, 48% Romney).

This leaves the RealClearPolitics Average at +0.5 in the President’s favor, and race wherein the President’s September lead has disappeared:


This is the first non-tracking national poll that’s been both released and fully conducted in the aftermath of the debate and the release of the jobs report on Friday so it likely is reflecting at least the initial public mood on the election at this point. While there’s still more data to come that may change the conclusion, it does appear that we’ve got real movement in Romney’s direction as a result of the debate to the point where, for the first time in many, many months, we have a poll showing Romney leading outside the margin of error. The question, of course, is whether this continues and whether we see it reflected in other national and swing state polling. If it does, then we’ve just seen a race shaken up by a debate in a manner unseen since the 1980 election.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. EddieInCA says:

    Yet even a week later, has it 66-34 Obama. When will real money start appearing for Romney?

  2. That’s nothing. Unskewed it’s Chávez +32.

  3. Jen says:


    When will real money start appearing for Romney?

    My guess is when state polls in FL, OH, VA, and NC all show Romney leading. National polls are interesting, and this is troubling for the Obama team, but unless Romney can flip a blue state and/or start leading in the swing states, this is still Obama’s race to lose.

  4. legion says:

    Also, this:

    President Barack Obama moved back to a 5-point lead over Mitt Romney, halting the Republican nominee’s post-debate momentum. Obama now leads Romney 50 percent to 45 percent in Gallup’s daily tracking poll.

    Let the Battle of the Polls commence!

  5. Curtis says:

    An interesting result, but it has a different conclusion than both Gallup and Rasmussen, which show the debate bump already slowing somewhat.

    Like everything else polling related, we need to wait for more information.

  6. @EddieInCA:

    Intrade is a lagging indicator, not a leading one.

  7. @legion:

    For some reason, Gallup has not switched a Likely Voter model yet and continues to poll Registered Voters. Every other major pollster has been polling LV’s since at least Labor Day.

  8. Geek, Esq. says:

    Pew seems awfully volatile. I never believed Obama was up by 9, either.

    It seems a near certainty that if a vote were held last Friday, Romney would have won in convincing fashion.

  9. SKI says:

    @Curtis: That makes sense as the Pew poll was active from the 4th through the 7th – a heavy pro-Romney split on Thursday – Saturday could be subsiding by Sunday (as the trackers indicate) and still generate the seemingly contradictory results. I’d wait a few more days to see if this result is confirmed or not from polls taken this week.

  10. EddieInCA says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Are you freaking kidding?

    That’s why they’re considered the worlds leading “predictive market”?


    Really? That’s your statement?

    Care to revisit that one, counselor?

  11. Geek, Esq. says:

    Also, the poll shows R+1 in party ID. We shouldn’t unskew it, but that may mean they got a particularly conservative sample (it happens, just like when some of the other polls got D+10 samples).

  12. Gromitt Gunn says:

    While it could be an outlier, my hope is that it scares Team Obama straight – there’s only a month (or less, if early voting is possible) to go. This is not the time for rookie mistakes.

  13. Smooth Jazz says:

    “Also, this:

    President Barack Obama moved back to a 5-point lead over Mitt Romney, halting the Republican nominee’s post-debate momentum. Obama now leads Romney 50 percent to 45 percent in Gallup’s daily tracking poll.

    Let the Battle of the Polls commence!”

    Gallup is still polling registered voters which means very little at this point, especially in light of the enthusiasm gap that is emerging as reflected in the well respected Battleground Poll:

    Strata Sphere is a right of center blogger but he is also a realist; not of these whack jobs like the weirdo making up his own numbers. Strata makes an important point that may be coming to fruition: The reason the NY Times & NBC & CNN & ABC polls were getting Dems 10% samples and huge Obama leads in those swing states, was because Rep voters weren’t interested in responding to Pollsters. Now that Absentee ballot and voter registration numbers are being reported as being WAY down versus 2008 for Dems in the swing states, people are starting to ask whether those big leads for Obama ever existed in those states.

    Make no mistake: The most dangerous and omninous sign for Obama is the lack of enthusiasm from the groups he needs to win as reflected in the Battleground survey and other polls. His bumbling, erratic and halting performance in the 1st debate isn’t going to help as that encounter calcifies in voters minds 30 days before the election.

  14. PJ says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    While there’s still more data to come that may change the conclusion, it does appear that we’ve got real movement in Romney’s direction as a result of the debate to the point where, for the first time in many, many months, we have a poll showing Romney leading outside the margin of error.

    Which poll would that be?
    The margin of error in the Pew Poll is 3.4 points, that is Romney is at 49% +/- 3.4 points and Obama is at 45% +/- 3.4 points.

    Romney’s low is 45.6% and Obama’s high is 48.4%, thus Romney’s lead is within the margin of error.


    On a side note, does anyone know why RCP is using this poll:
    NBC News/Wall St. Jrnl 9/26 – 9/30 832 LV 3.4 49 46 Obama +3
    but not this poll:
    NPR 9/26 – 9/30 800 LV 4.0 51 44 Obama +7
    for it’s average?

    Same dates, both LV, roughly the same number of voters asked.

  15. David M says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    Also, the poll shows R+1 in party ID. We shouldn’t unskew it, but that may mean they got a particularly conservative sample (it happens, just like when some of the other polls got D+10 samples).

    A single poll by itself doesn’t mean a lot, but partisan ID is fluid, so the test is what polls show over the next week. Then we’ll know if this was an outlier or an indicator from Pew.

  16. Geek, Esq. says:

    @David M:

    Certainly, partisan ID is fluid so it’s not something that should be weighted for. My intuition is that Pew tends to overreact to voter intensity–when the Republicans were glum, it showed Romney way down, and then when the moods were reversed, 13 point rally!

    No single poll is ever going to tell us what we need to know about this race.

  17. PJ says:

    @David M:
    Doesn’t have to be an outlier, Obama could have a lead of up to 2.8 points and the true result would still be within the margin of error of this poll.

  18. grumpy realist says:

    Hmm. As said, if Mitt Romney gets elected, it’s going to be the biggest case of “dog catching the car and not knowing what to do with it” the political world has ever seen.

  19. legion says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Interesting – didn’t know that.

  20. Inhumans99 says:

    @EddieInCA: Let us not look at data that only makes us think our guy is doing better than he actually is in the polls, I remember folks turned to similar data when Kerry was running, and look how that turned out.

    If Romney wins, I actually feel for the guy…possible U.S. involvement in what may soon be a Turkish / Syrian war, and Bibi nipping at his heels to get us involved in bombing Iran…would not wish having to make these type of decisions on my worst enemy.

    Also, he will kill the recovery if he raises taxes on the middle class (of which I am a part of). He may have had to back away from the fact that he brought universal healthcare to his state, but yeah… he pulled it off, so kudos for that achievement. I hate to say it, but he does know how to create (granted, and destroy) jobs from his days with Bain.

    Not that Ann Is reading this, but I also wanted to say that no Ann, I do not feel privileged to have your husband as a candidate of choice this year, I am not a Mormon, and do not see the president as a king to appeal to on bended knee.

    I am more likely to get down on my knees and go all I am not worthy, I am not worthy…if I had an audience with Bruce Willis (folks, my favorite film is Die Hard).

  21. Geek, Esq. says:

    This is key regarding Pew, given the noted strength in Romney’s polling for Thursday-Friday-Saturday vs Sunday:

    According to Pew Research, 1,046 of its 1,201 interviews were conducted on Thursday through Saturday. Just 155 interviews were conducted on Sunday.

    By all accounts, Romney had a massive day in polling for Friday. This will show up when the Daily Kos poll also shows Romney ahead.

    Who’d have thunk that Daily Kos/PPP would be showing a worse result than Gallup and Rasmussen? That generally speaks to the credit of both PPP and Rasmussen, imo.

  22. wr says:

    @Smooth Jazz: Hey, who could have predicted that Smoovie would magically start believing in the polls he was claiming were all fixed just as soon as he found some he liked?

    Oh, right. Everyone.

  23. Fiona says:

    Andrew Sullivan is losing his sh*t over the Pew poll. He’s pretty much concluded that Obama threw the election with his lackluster debate performance. The word “histrionic” comes to mind.

  24. stonetools says:

    Polls like this make it clear that Obama’s refusal to go all in on preparing for these debates was a huge own goal. I don’t care if he had intel that Turkey was planning to march to Damascus, in the end he let up the pressure on Romney when he had him on the run. He shouldn’t have done that .Now he has put his political hopes in the hands of Joe Biden, FFS. I’m not cool with that at all.

  25. Eric the OTB Lurker says:

    Ha-ha. I love how the Right Wing Freakout Machine now loves polls now that Pew’s shows Romney in the lead. My, they’re the most accurate things ever invented–how could anyone doubt them?

  26. PJ says:

    Pew and PPP show Romney in the lead because right wingers exposed how they were inflating Dems in the samples. And when they stopped doing it, Romney gained!!!!


    Pew and PPP are still inflating Dems in their samples, so a better sample would show Romney being up 23 points!!!!!

  27. tps says:

    From what I just read, Pew will call 10,000 people to get 1000 answers. They’ll ask for party identification and if they get it, add that to the sample. That’s how they can go from a D+10 to an R+3 swings.

  28. Moderate Mom says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Very late to the game on this post, but it should be noted that Gallup released two polls today, one pre-debate and one post-debate. The pre-debate one has the President up 5, 50-45. The post-debate poll has them tied at 47-47.

  29. Frank LdR says:

    Would this be the same Intrade that had the Supreme Court striking down Obamacare by 76%?

  30. Frank LdR says:

    Well,we’ll always have the Nobel prize,HOPE and CHANGE,wait? Nevermind.