Half of likely voters now prefer Mitt Romney for president and 46% back President Barack Obama in Gallup interviewing through Monday.
While Romney’s four-percentage-point advantage is not statistically significant, he has consistently edged ahead of Obama each of the past several days in Gallup’s seven-day rolling averages conducted entirely after the Oct. 3 presidential debate. Prior to that debate — regarded as a decisive Romney win by political experts and Americans who watched it — Romney averaged less than a one-point lead over Obama among likely voters.
The latest result, from Oct. 9-15, is based on 2,723 likely voters drawn from more than 3,100 registered voters.
The effect of the Denver debate on voter preferences is also seen in the trend among registered voters. Prior to the debate, in late September/early October, Obama generally led Romney by five or six points among registered voters. Since the debate, the margin has been three points or less.
Since 2008, Obama Down the Most Among Whites, Middle-Aged Voters, and Southerners
Romney’s four-point edge over Obama in likely voters’ preferences for president contrasts with Obama’s seven-point win over McCain in the 2008 election. To gain an understanding of the underlying dynamics of this shift, the following analysis contrasts the Obama versus McCain margins across major subgroups in 2008 with the Obama versus Romney margins in the full week of Gallup interviewing conducted Oct. 9-15. This shows that compared with 2008, Obama’s support is down the most among voters in the South, 30- to 49-year-olds, those with four-year college degrees, postgraduates, men, and Protestants. He has also slipped modestly among whites, Easterners, women, and Catholics.
Obama’s support is roughly the same now as in 2008 among 18- to 29-year-olds, seniors, nonwhites, and voters in the West and Midwest; however, he has not gained support among any major group compared with 2008.
In order to compare Obama’s support today with 2008, the data in the graph below for both 2008 and 2012 are re-percentaged on the basis of support for the Democratic and Republican candidates only, excluding “no opinion” responses and support for minor third-party candidates. The 2008 results reflect an additional adjustment to align Gallup’s final likely voter result with the election outcome.