A poll released Monday by the Pew Research Center shows that President Obama has failed to regain much of the support he lost in the days after the first presidential debate.
The poll shows that among likely voters, the race is now a statistical dead heat with both Obama and Mitt Romney receiving 47 percent support. Among registered voters there is what Pew calls a "statistically insignificant two-point edge" of 47 percent to 45 percent for Obama.
But Pew President Andrew Kohut tells All Things Considered host Robert Siegel that of particular significance is the change in attitude and enthusiasm of Romney supporters.
"[More] Romney backers are now saying they are voting 'for' [Romney] as opposed to against Obama," Kohut says.
Of the registered voters who support Romney, 57 percent now say their vote is "for" the candidate. This is a big swing from September, when 52 percent of Romney voters said their main motivation was their opposition for Obama.
Romney also has a turnout advantage, Kohut says, with 76 percent of Republicans classified as likely to vote versus only 62 percent of Democrats. He says back in September that number was about even.
Romney leads on economic issues such as reducing the federal deficit (51 percent to 37 percent) and improving the job situation (50 percent to 42 percent). President Obama leads on foreign policy (50 percent to 42 percent) and abortion (48 percent to 39 percent). Obama also leads Romney 59 percent to 31 percent on being able to "connect well with ordinary Americans."
"These are attitudes that ... voters have had about the candidates for much of the campaign," Kohut says.
While this change between September and October is bigger than most, Kohut says this sort of shift so close to the election is not that unusual.
Pew will have one final poll conducted over the weekend before Election Day on Nov. 6.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Now, a new national poll on the presidential race. Over the past few weeks, we've checked in with Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. After the Democratic convention, Pew found a big lead for President Obama. After the first debate though, the poll found a huge swing and a lead for Governor Romney. Well, now, the debates are done, the conventions are history. Andy Kohut is back. And, Andy, what did Pew find in its latest poll?
ANDREW KOHUT: We found the race dead even. Forty-seven percent said they would vote for Mitt Romney if the election were being held today. And exactly the same percentage, 47, said they would vote for Barack Obama if the election were held today.
SIEGEL: This would be among people Pew would deem likely voters.
KOHUT: Yes. Among registered voters, there is a two-point Obama advantage. The pattern in this poll shows that when we moved from registered voters to likely voters, it goes in the Romney or Republican direction, which is pretty consistent with the way elections go. Last election in 2008, there was such high enthusiasm for the Democrats that we didn't see that strong pattern. But Romney has a turnout advantage. Among Republicans, 76 percent are classified likely voters. Only 62 percent of Democrats are classified likely voters. Back in September, that had not been the case. Both Republicans and Democrats were about equally likely to vote.
SIEGEL: So enthusiasm on the Republican side for Mitt Romney has increased is what you're seeing?
KOHUT: Absolutely. In October, more Republicans are saying the race is interesting, it's informative. It's not really that negative. And we also see Republicans or Romney backers now saying they're voting for him as opposed to against Obama, which had not been the case earlier in September.
SIEGEL: This poll was conducted from October 24 through yesterday. What's the margin of error on it?
KOHUT: The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.
SIEGEL: Now, for people who cannot bear the thought of no one being in the lead, 47-47, if you had to look for a silver linings here for both Governor Romney and President Obama, what would you say?
KOHUT: Well, for Romney, he has become more personally popular. He leads on the economy. He leads on the budget deficit. And his opponent, President Obama, is seen by many as not knowing how to fix the economy. And that's a very big problem for Obama and a very big asset for Romney. Fifty percent say they don't think Obama knows how to fix the economy.
SIEGEL: And for President Obama, his advantages?
KOHUT: His advantage is he's seen as more empathetic candidate. He connects well with ordinary people by a 59 to 31 percent margin. He takes more consistent positions on issues, and he's more trustworthy than Romney. Obama also leads on foreign policy and abortion. These are attitudes that the public has had, voters have had about the candidates through much of the campaign.
SIEGEL: Andy, back to the basic horse race question here. You've been at this business for quite a while. How unusual is it to see changes that have been so big from early September through to late October?
KOHUT: This is bigger than most. But we have trends in past campaigns. We saw Al Gore lose his lead in early October coming out of the debates, and the race was even throughout. Certainly, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, we saw big changes between September and October. That is, of course, a long time ago. So this is not that unusual.
SIEGEL: And you have one more poll before Election Day?
KOHUT: We have one more, which will be released on Sunday and conducted Thursday through Sunday morning.
SIEGEL: OK. Andy, good to hear from you. We'll talk to you then.
KOHUT: Thank you, Robert.
SIEGEL: That's Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, talking about Pew's latest poll. The headline number there is Obama 47, Romney 47. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.