In a week that saw a dramatic turn in the Republican leadership contest and the U.S. general election campaign begin in earnest, new voter surveys offer a glimpse early in the season of a tightening race.
Six national polls surveying voter opinion on a Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama contest have been conducted after, or overlapping, the period Rick Santorum dropped out of the race.
The New York Times/CBS News poll released this morning shows a 46-46 dead heat, a change from last month when a similar poll showed President Obama edging Governor Romney 47-44. But the poll also indicates a lingering “lack of strong enthusiasm” among GOP voters for the Romney candidacy.
The general election campaign will be long with plenty of gyrations in the polls not unlike what happened in the Republican leadership race.
Here are the other polls which show a similar tightening of the general election contest.
Pew Poll: President Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney 49-45, compared to a March poll in which President Obama led by 12 percentage points. The economy and jobs creations ranked as “very important” to voters - issues on which Mr. Romney has an edge.
“Obama continues to owe his lead to support from women, college graduates, blacks, Latinos and lower income voters -- all of whom support him over Romney by double-digits.”
Reuters/Ipsos: President Barack Obama is leading Mitt Romney 47-43, compared to a March poll indicating a 11 per cent advantage. Again, jobs and the economy mattered to most voters, and on that issue Mr. Romney led President Obama 45-43.
“Obama has had to preside over a really tough economy. ... People are sort of dinging him for it and that's really what's going to make this a competitive race,” said Chris Jackson, research director at Ipsos public affairs.
Gallup Daily: The inaugural daily tracking of the presidential contest - which shows a five-day running average - indicated a two-point Mitt Romney lead over President Barack Obama on Monday. That is now a 48-43 Mitt Romney lead.
A word of caution from the Gallup team on trying to predict a November outcome based on an April daily tracking poll: “[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.” Another April poll showed President Jimmy Carter leading in 1980. “Both Bush and Carter, of course, ultimately lost their re-election bids.”
CNN/ORC International: By far the biggest advantage for President Barack Obama who, according to this poll of registered voters, has a nine per cent advantage over Mitt Romney. That is a slight tightening from the 11 point lead in March, but still wide enough to merit a raised eyebrow and questions over the methodology.
Fox News: Started before Rick Santorum dropped out the race and completed the day after, this poll shows Mitt Romney holding a two-point advantage 46-44, which is within the poll’s margin of error.
As Fox News points out, it is only the second time Mitt Romney has led President Barack Obama. The last time was in November of last year, which was on the eve of a months-long blitz of negative TV ads intended to protect his candidacy from various challengers. Those attacks, and counter-attacks by his opponents, hurt Mr. Romney’s favourability ratings.
On the subject of Mitt Romney’s favourability ratings, they are starting to improve compared to where they were in the heat of the Republican leadership race. But the White House hopeful still emerges from a bruising primary process as the least popular presidential nominee since 1984.