CONGRESS

Obama, Romney Tied Among Likely Voters

National Journal
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Shane Goldmacher
Oct. 2, 2012, 4 p.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama and Mitt Rom­ney are dead­locked among likely voters as they pre­pare to square off in their first pres­id­en­tial de­bate, ac­cord­ing to the latest United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll.

The sur­vey showed that voters re­main res­ist­ant to either Obama or Rom­ney hold­ing full con­trol of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

Obama and Rom­ney each pulled in 47 per­cent sup­port in the poll among likely voters. It is among the nar­row­est mar­gins of sev­er­al pres­id­en­tial sur­veys pub­lished ahead of the de­bate this week. Oth­er polls have shown the pres­id­ent with a slim lead. In this sur­vey, while the race is tied among likely voters, Obama has a 5-point lead, 49 per­cent to 44 per­cent, among re­gistered voters.

The sur­vey was con­duc­ted Sept. 27-30 and has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.7 per­cent­age points.

Rom­ney led in the poll among in­de­pend­ents, 49 per­cent to 41 per­cent, with both can­did­ates win­ning more than 90 per­cent sup­port from their re­spect­ive parties. The sur­vey had Obama win­ning 81 per­cent of the non­white vote and Rom­ney car­ry­ing 55 per­cent of white voters.

In es­tim­at­ing the turnout on Nov. 6, the poll pro­jects an elect­or­ate that is 74 per­cent white, 11 per­cent Afric­an-Amer­ic­an, and 8 per­cent Latino. The likely-voter party splits are 36 per­cent Demo­crat­ic, 29 per­cent Re­pub­lic­an, and 30 per­cent in­de­pend­ent.

The es­tim­ates are sim­il­ar to the 2008 turnout, when, ac­cord­ing to CNN exit polling, 74 per­cent of voters were white, 13 per­cent black, and 9 per­cent Latino, with Demo­crat­ic turnout at 39 per­cent, Re­pub­lic­ans at 32 per­cent, and in­de­pend­ents at 29 per­cent.

The poll also asked voters which party they would prefer to con­trol the Con­gress. Demo­crats were favored there. A slim plur­al­ity of likely voters said they pre­ferred that Demo­crats win enough seats to con­trol the House and keep hold of the Sen­ate, a pos­it­ive sign for the party five weeks out from the elec­tion.

For the House, 45 per­cent of likely voters said they hoped the Demo­crats would win a ma­jor­ity, while 43 per­cent said they pre­ferred that Re­pub­lic­ans stay in charge. The mar­gin grew slightly, 45 per­cent to 41 per­cent, among re­gistered voters. The res­ult is nearly un­changed from April 2012 (then 46 per­cent to 43 per­cent among re­gistered voters) and Oc­to­ber 2011 (then 43 per­cent to 41 per­cent among re­gistered voters).

In the Sen­ate, 47 per­cent of re­gistered voters said they pre­ferred Demo­crats stay in power, com­pared with 42 per­cent who hoped Re­pub­lic­ans would win the four net seats needed to take con­trol. That rep­res­ents a slight dip in Demo­crat­ic sup­port from April 2012, when 50 per­cent of voters favored the Demo­crats com­pared with 39 per­cent who pre­ferred the GOP.

Few in­de­pend­ent ana­lysts give the Demo­crats much of a chance to win the House in Novem­ber, but con­trol of the Sen­ate is very much up for grabs.

(RE­LATED: Biden “˜Bur­ied’ Com­ment Un­der Fire)

The poll offered warn­ing signs for both parties.

Who­ever wins the pres­id­ency, voters don’t want to give the win­ner’s party a blank check to run the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. A sol­id ma­jor­ity of likely voters (55 per­cent) said that if Obama is reelec­ted, they still hope that Re­pub­lic­ans keep at least one cham­ber of Con­gress. Sim­il­arly, more than six in 10 voters said that if Rom­ney wins, they prefer that Demo­crats keep at least one cham­ber “so they can act as a check” on his agenda.

The de­sire to curb whichever party is in power is shared by Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans alike. Among Rom­ney sup­port­ers, 32 per­cent still hope for Demo­crats to con­trol at least one cham­ber. And among Obama back­ers, 23 per­cent want Re­pub­lic­ans to wield the gavel in the House, the Sen­ate, or both.
Not­ably, few­er than one in 10 likely voters said they didn’t want a check on either the Rom­ney or Obama agenda.

The poll’s find­ings rep­res­ent yet an­oth­er ex­pres­sion of pub­lic un­eas­i­ness with both polit­ic­al parties. Voters don’t trust either alone to gov­ern, and they ap­pear to hope the two sides will be able to bridge their dif­fer­ences.

Not that the pub­lic ap­pears bullish on the pos­sib­il­ity.

Asked why un­em­ploy­ment re­mains so high, a 53 per­cent ma­jor­ity blamed “fight­ing between Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans [that] has blocked needed gov­ern­ment ac­tion.” Only 16 per­cent said it was be­cause politi­cians in Wash­ing­ton have not “come up with any good ideas;” 19 per­cent said it was be­cause there simply isn’t much that polit­ic­al lead­ers could do to re­duce un­em­ploy­ment.

The res­ults echoed earli­er sur­veys, in Ju­ly 2012 and Oc­to­ber 2011, in which ma­jor­it­ies of 52 per­cent and 54 per­cent, re­spect­ively, blamed “fight­ing between Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans” as the main reas­on for per­sist­ent high un­em­ploy­ment.

Much of of­fi­cial Wash­ing­ton has been frozen in con­flict since Re­pub­lic­ans were swept in­to the House in 2010, with Demo­crats con­trolling the Sen­ate and Obama oc­cupy­ing the White House. The in­fight­ing, par­tic­u­larly sharp dur­ing the debt-ceil­ing battle dur­ing the sum­mer of 2011 that led to the na­tion’s cred­it rat­ing be­ing cut for the first time, has clearly made an im­pres­sion on voters.

After nearly two years of GOP rule in the House, voters be­lieve that Demo­crat­ic lead­ers in Con­gress are more likely to “genu­inely seek com­prom­ise with a pres­id­ent from the oth­er party.”

Forty-five per­cent of voters said Demo­crat­ic lead­ers were more likely to com­prom­ise, while 31 per­cent said Re­pub­lic­ans were, and 8 per­cent vo­lun­teered that neither party was more likely to do so.

The di­vide among par­tis­ans was telling. Far more Demo­crats viewed their own lead­ers as more will­ing to com­prom­ise (81 per­cent) than Re­pub­lic­ans did (66 per­cent). Among in­de­pend­ents, 40 per­cent saw Demo­crats as more will­ing to com­prom­ise, com­pared with only 30 per­cent for Re­pub­lic­ans.

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