Monday’s varied range of new polls proved one thing about the presidential election between incumbent Barack Obama and Republican hopeful Mitt Romney: It’s going to be a wild finish between now and Nov. 6.
In one day, Gallup published results of a new national poll of registered voters showing both an even presidential debate and a lead of five percentage points by the president.
Then came results from the Pew Research Center that showed Romney ahead among likely voters by four percentage points, 49 percent to 45 percent.
The apparent discrepancy in the Gallup results boils down to differences in when the surveys were conducted. Over the last seven days, Gallup found Obama leading Romney among registered voters by five percentage points (50 percent to 45 percent). For the three days immediately following Wednesday’s debate, however, Gallup showed Romney and Obama tied among registered voters.
That last result provides one element of consistency between the Gallup and Pew Research surveys. Both found an even race between Obama and Romney in interviews conducted primarily over the three days following Wednesday’s debate. According to Pew Research, 1,046 of its 1,201 interviews were conducted on Thursday through Saturday. Just 155 interviews were conducted on Sunday. The full sample had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points, with a 3.4 percentage point margin of error among likely voters.
Harder to reconcile is that until this survey, Pew Research had produced results among registered voters that had typically been more favorable for Obama than those produced by other pollsters, particularly Gallup.
Unlike Gallup, Pew Research also reported results for the voters most likely to vote, a subgroup that has grown more favorable for Romney since September due to growing Republican enthusiasm. Pew Research showed Romney leading among the most likely voters by a margin of 49 percent to 46 percent.
Romney also caught up to the president on a key personal metric, emerging from the debate with newly strengthened favorability numbers. Romney has been underwater on favorability for much of the campaign, but hit a 50 percent approval rating for the first time in a Pew survey, boosted by rising approval from women and voters younger than 50. Forty-six percent still disapproved of Romney. Obama had a 49 percent favorable rating, and a 48 percent unfavorable rating.
In less positive news for Romney, six in 10 voters agreed with the criticism that he was promising more than he could deliver and more than half said it was difficult to know what he stood for.
Buoyed by his post-debate surge, the former Massachusetts governor has suddenly become a candidate eager to mix it up with voters in impromptu settings.
The idea is to get Romney better prepared for the next presidential debate, which will put him and President Barack Obama in a town hall format.
In the days since the first debate, Romney has held town-hall style calls, visited local restaurants and stopped by an elementary school.
The style and pace of Romney’s recent schedule are a dramatic departure from what he had been doing in the weeks leading up to the debate. During the first 20 days of September, for instance, Romney held just 13 campaign events and 13 fundraisers and made six impromptu campaign stops.
Democrats, in assessing the Republican nominee’s calendar, suggested that he was using the campaign trail as a trial run for his next showdown with the president.
“Don’t you assume that [the retail politics] is debate prep in itself, given that next debate is interactive town hall format?” asked one top Democratic official.