Poll: Obama Holds Four-Point National Lead

Poll: Obama Holds Four-Point National Lead

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - October 2, 2012

On the eve of the first presidential debate, Barack Obama holds a four-point edge over Mitt Romney among likely voters nationwide.

The president attracts 49 percent of the support to his GOP rival’s 45 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University survey released Tuesday. The RealClearPolitics average of national polls finds Obama with a 3.2 percentage point lead.

Obama’s lead in the new survey appears to be buoyed by women voters, who back him over Romney by 18 points. Romney leads Obama by 10 points among men.

Independent voters are virtually split between the two candidates: 47 percent support Romney while 45 percent back the president. Romney leads among white voters, 53 percent to 42 percent, while Obama leads among black voters, 94 percent to 2 percent. Obama’s showing among whites is on par with his 2008 performance, said Peter Brown, the poll’s assistant director, who asserts that if Obama repeats or exceeds this margin, it will be “difficult to impossible for Romney to win.”

Still, voters are split on whether Obama has done a good job in the White House: 48 percent approve of his job performance while 49 percent disapprove. Obama receives positive favorability scores: 50 percent view him in a favorable light while 47 percent find him unfavorable. Romney’s are upside down: 45 percent find him favorable while 48 percent say the opposite.

The economy is the most important issue in this election for half of the likely electorate, the survey shows. But voters are split over who would better handle the economy: 48 percent say Obama while 47 percent choose Romney. Romney’s strength comes with regard to the budget deficit, as 52 percent to 42 percent say he would do a better job on that issue than Obama would.

Obama leads Romney on handling health care by five points; on national security by six points; and on handling an international crisis by nine points. Romney has recently questioned Obama’s foreign policy credentials in light of the deadly attack on the American consulate in Libya. By a five-point margin, likely voters say they would want Obama as president over Romney if they were at risk overseas.

The two candidates will debate domestic policy Wednesday night in Denver. While both have been downplaying expectations, the results of this poll show the stakes are high for the president. Not only does he lead on most issues, but 54 percent of voters think he will win the debates. However, while most intend to watch, 86 percent say the debates won’t likely change their minds about whom they will support on Election Day. "The best news for Romney going into the debates is that voters have very low expectations for him and therefore the bar for him to change some minds is set lower than it is for the president,” says Brown.

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,912 likely voters from Sept. 25-30. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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