The Last Pew Poll: Obama Holds Edge On Eve Of Election

Nov 4, 2012
Originally published on November 5, 2012 12:24 pm

The final poll released Sunday by the Pew Research Center ahead of Tuesday's election shows President Obama has a 3 percentage point lead over Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney just two days before the general election.

Obama leads Romney 48 percent to 45 percent in the poll of 2,709 likely voters, which has a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points. The poll was conducted Oct. 31-Nov. 3.

Here's more from the Pew news release:

"The survey finds that Obama maintains his modest lead when the probable decisions of undecided voters are taken into account. Our final estimate of the national popular vote is Obama 50 percent and Romney 47 percent, when the undecided vote is allocated between the two candidates based on several indicators and opinions."

The results come just a week after a Pew poll showed the two candidates deadlocked at 47 percent among likely voters. That poll was conducted Oct. 24-28, before Superstorm Sandy hit the U.S. East Coast.

Pew president Andrew Kohut tells NPR's Guy Raz that the shift back toward Obama was partially because of his handling of the aftermath of the storm.

"Two-thirds of the likely voters we questioned said they approved of the way he handled it," Kohut says. "More importantly, 63 percent of the swing voters said they approved of Obama's dealing with this issue."

Though Obama has edged ahead, Kohut says it is just that — an edge.

"We still have 11 percent of the sample saying 'we could possibly change our mind,' " he says. "This is our projection, and our projections have been pretty good, but there's always the possibility things could change."

Among likely voters in the crucial battleground states that both candidates are vying for, the Pew poll found Obama leading 49 percent to 47 percent.

The poll adds, however, that voter turnout remains one of the GOP nominee's strengths. Romney's supporters are more engaged in the election and more committed to voting than are Obama's supporters, the poll found.

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OK, let's go back to that poll I just mentioned. According to the Pew Research Center's final poll - released just a short time ago - President Obama has edged ahead of Mitt Romney, 50 percent to 47 percent.

Andy Kohut is Pew's president. He's with me now. And Andy, give us more details about your findings.

ANDREW KOHUT: Well, a week ago, among our sample of likely voters, we had 47 percent for Obama...

RAZ: Dead even.

KOHUT: ...47 percent for Romney. Dead even. Our survey of likely voters finds 48 percent for Obama, 45 percent for Romney - a statistically significant lead. And when we allocate the undecideds based upon a number of indicators in our models, we continue to get a three-point - 50 to 47 - edge for Obama. And that would be our projection of the popular vote, as best we can do it here two days before the election.

RAZ: What accounts for the change from last week, when it was a dead heat?

KOHUT: Well, part of it probably has to do with Obama's handling of the hurricane. Two-thirds of the likely voters we questioned, said they approved of the way he handled it; even a plurality of Republicans said so. And more importantly, 63 percent of the swing voters said they approved of Obama's dealing with this issue. So that's one thing.

Secondly, we've seen since early October - following that first debate - Obama gradually beginning to come back. He had drawn even by last weekend but now, he's edged ahead. And I want to put the emphasis on edge. We still have 11 percent of the sample saying, you know, we could possibly change our mind. And we know from the exit polls - which we'll be looking at Tuesday night - that many people do make up their minds at the last moment. So this is our projection, and our projections have been pretty good. But there's always the possibility that things could change.

RAZ: And we should mention: In 2008, you were exactly right.

KOHUT: We were exactly right in 2008. We were exactly right in 2004. And in terms of the popular vote for Congress, we were right in '06 and '10. So we have a pretty good record. This is a tougher election, though. People are conflicted about these candidates, and it's harder for the polls to come away with a consensus forecast of where this thing is going. But this is what we find.

RAZ: Andy, you guys were interviewing people up until last night; almost 3,000 people - you sampled for this poll. Talk a little bit about strength of support because according to your poll, Obama also leads Romney when it comes to the strength of those who support him.

KOHUT: Thirty-nine percent of Obama's supporters say they strongly support him. Only 32 percent of Romney supporters say they strongly support him. Now, in the last 12 national elections - going back to 1960 - in nine of the 12 elections, the candidate who has the most strong support wins the popular vote. The exceptions were Nixon, in 1960; Carter, who didn't win the strong contest but did win the election; and President Bush in 2000, who did not win the popular vote.

RAZ: Popular vote, yeah. Interestingly, when you asked voters who they think will win, 52 percent say Obama; just 32 percent say Romney.

KOHUT: Yes. That has been pretty consistent through this election. Obama is seen by average voters as the likely winner of the next election. That's another measure that's been a pretty good indicator of who will win the election; that is, the candidate that the electorate thinks will win, generally does win.

RAZ: Andy, what does the data tell us about who the Obama supporters are, and who the Romney supporters are?

KOHUT: Well, white voters are voting on balance for Romney. Men are voting for Romney. Older people are voting for Romney. But all of their demographic counterpoints - women, younger voters, non-whites - are voting for Barack Obama. Also, there's a difference by - on the basis of income. More-affluent people are voting for Romney; less-affluent people are voting for Barack Obama.

RAZ: That's Andy Kohut. He's president of the Pew Research Center. Their final pre-election poll shows President Obama leading Mitt Romney, 50 to 47 percent. Andy, thanks.

KOHUT: You're welcome, Guy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.