WASHINGTON — President Obama heads into election day with a narrow lead in two carefully watched national polls, with the Pew Research Center projecting a 50% to 47% margin for the president over Republican Mitt Romney and the NBC/Wall St. Journal poll finding him ahead 48% to 47%.
A week ago, a Pew survey had found the race tied, at 47% each. Obama’s handling of the aftermath of the massive storm that hit the northeast may have contributed to his rise since, say Pew researchers. In the survey, 69% of likely voters said they approved of how Obama had handled the storm. The NBC/Wall St. Journal survey found a similar level of support on that issue.
The Pew survey found that Obama leads 48% to 45% among likely voters who already have made up their minds, with 4% saying they remain uncommitted. After allocating those remaining voters, Pew projected that each candidate would gain two points. Republican strategists have argued that Romney will receive the majority of any voters who have not yet made up their minds to vote for the incumbent, but based on their surveys, Pew researchers disagree.
The survey did find that Romney’s voters remain more engaged that Obama’s, with 87% of Romney supporters saying they have given a lot of thought to the race, compared with 79% of Obama’s supporters, and 92% saying they were definitely planning to vote, compared with 86% of Obama’s voters. Those measures suggest that Romney could have an edge on turnout, something which the Obama campaign has devoted extensive resources to try to make up for.
On the other side of the ledger, Obama’s voters are more likely to say they back him “strongly” and more often say they are voting for him, rather than against his opponent.
As has been true throughout the campaign, likely voters are sharply polarized along racial lines, with Obama leading 93% to 4% among blacks and 66% to 27% among Latinos, but losing 39% to 54% among non-Latino whites. Obama has regained support among women, some of which he lost after the first presidential debate. His lead is particularly large, 64% to 30%, among unmarried women. Romney does best among married men, among whom he leads 58% to 34%.
Regardless of which candidate they say they support, voters by 52% to 30% said they expect Obama will prevail, a finding in line with numerous other surveys this year. Recent research has indicated that asking voters whom they think will win can yield more accurate predictions than the standard method of asking them which candidate they intend to support. Asking about voter expectations can capture people’s knowledge of how their friends, family members and neighbors plan to vote, researchers suggest.
The NBC/Wall St. Journal poll of 1,475 likely voters was conducted Nov. 1-3 and has a margin of error of 2.55 percentage points. The Pew survey was conducted Oct. 31-Nov. 3 among 3,815 Americans, including 2,709 likely voters. The margin of error among likely voters is 2.2 percentage points. Both surveys are conducted with live interviewers calling both cellphones and land lines.