Gallup National Poll Tied at 47 and How Undecideds Will Vote

Gallup runs a 7-day rolling average poll for the national election which helps smooth out any one day anomalies.  But with the Presidential debate being such a seminal event, Gallup split their 7-day poll into pre- and post- debate results and the post-debate results are very bad for President Obama.

Registered voters’ preferences for president are evenly split in the first three days of Gallup tracking since last Wednesday’s presidential debate. In the three days prior to the debate, Barack Obama had a five-percentage-point edge among registered voters.

Comparison of Registered Voters' Presidential Preferences, Before and After First Presidential Debate, 2012

There are a number of reasons why this is horrible for Obama rather than Romney:

First and foremost, Undecideds break 65-85% for the challenger as elections draw to a close absent a disqualifying event for the challenger. Here is a study by lefty blog MyDD showing 72% of Undecideds break for the challenger in prior Presidential elections.  Here was their view in October 2004:

There have been four incumbent presidential elections in the past quarter-century. If we take an average of the final surveys conducted by the three major networks and their partners, we find that in three of these the incumbent fell short of or merely matched his final poll number, while exceeding it only once, and then by just a single point (Ronald Reagan). On average, the incumbent comes in half a point below his final poll result.

Year  Incumbent  Final Poll %  Actual Vote %
1996  Clinton	   51	       49
1992  Bush	   37	       37
1984  Reagan	   58	       59
1980  Carter	   42	       41

The numbers for challengers look quite different. In every case, the challenger(s) — I include Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 — exceed their final poll result by at least 2 points, and the average gain is 4 points. In 1980, Ronald Reagan received 51 percent, fully 6 percentage points above his final poll results. Looking at just Gallup, Mystery Pollster delivers even more bad news for incumbent Presidents:[T]he final Gallup projections (sans undecided) show an intriguing pattern: In the presidential elections since 1956 that featured an incumbent, Gallup’s final projection of the incumbent’s vote exceeded the incumbent’s actual vote six of eight times. The only exceptions were Ronald Reagan in 1984 and George H.W. Bush in 1992, and then by only 0.2% and 0.7% respectively. On average, Gallup’s projection of the incumbent’s vote has averaged 1.3 percentage points greater than the actual result.

This was all in the lead up to incumbent George W Bush’s re-election and as we have shown, Undecideds decisively broke for John Kerry.  The difference in that election was Bush banked an unusually large and unprecedented turnout from his partisans which is what Obama is trying to replicate.

Undecideds break for the challenger for a number of reasons but mostly it has to do with the incumbent which is why Obama’s support hasn’t (and won’t) change. Obama has been the President for four years and he spent two years running for President (we really need to shorten that cycle) so the public knows everything it needs to know about who Obama is, who Obama was, and who Obama will be if given a second term.  And the American public is willing to fire him evidenced by his sub-50% support.

The thing about Obama’s support level is it has been at this level throughout the general election and it never moves. This is because the public has assessed his performance and found him wanting.  They’re willing to fire Obama and until the recent debate they weren’t willing to hire Mitt Romney. Romney’s strong debate performance was the first time Romney really “made the sale” to the public and they have been buying what he is selling ever since.  The key will be to sustain that momentum through election day.

In a 47 to 47 dead-heat election that leaves 6% up for grabs but if 2% go to third parties, that really leaves only 4%. That’s not a lot of votes to gain or in Obama’s case, not a lot of votes you need to make certain don’t show up since they are most likely going to your challenger.  Although Obama mostly cannot “win” those votes he can fight hard to convince them not to vote for Romney (i.e. stay home).  That is why he puts forth no vision for the future via a 2nd term agenda and just attacks, attacks, attacks Romney.  He’s not going to persuade anyone not already in his camp and needs those remaining people to simply not vote or vote 3rd party.

Mitt Romney needs to continue “making the sale” since the transaction isn’t complete until election day, but as it stands the momentum and history is strongly on his side and against the incumbent, especially in a 47 to 47 election with less than a month left.


  1. Vadim
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink | Reply

    Let me also point out that the Gallop numbers are even worse for the president because they poll registered voters rather than likely voters. Polls that sample likely voters tend to be 2-3 points more favorable for the GOP side

    • MostlyRight
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

      What about the Democratic party’s Unregistered Likely Voters? 😉

      • manapp99
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

        Tell them they can register the day of the election. One stop shopping. Just show up and tell the nice lady who you are voting for.

  2. Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink | Reply

    Does anyone have a guess on when gallup will switch to a likely voter poll?

    • Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink | Reply

      A month out, 30 days iirc. So now

      • Hobie
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        …so tomorrow, 10/9/12?

  3. Eric
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:20 am | Permalink | Reply

    I agree that if Romney is tied among RV, then he’s ahead among LV.

  4. Posted October 8, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Anyone know why Gallup also listed the 50-45 result today as well. It seems to reference details from “may” in the write-up when you click on the link on rcp. Seems rather curious that they have both very different results up.

    “General Election: Romney vs. Obama Gallup Tracking* Obama 47, Romney 47 Tie
    General Election: Romney vs. Obama Gallup Tracking* Obama 50, Romney 45 Obama +5”

    • swimeasy
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Or I should say why does RCP list both?

    • Mike
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Yes I saw that Gallup has Obama up by 5% on likely voters. Rasmussen has gone from being +2 for Rmoney to a tie, so some, if not all,, of the bounce from the debate for Romney is fading.

      • Posted October 8, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

        Cannot determine that in 1 day. Pew shows a huge swing to Romney and puts the race at R 49% O 45% among likely voters. The swing among Independent voters also shows Romney with a double digit lead.

      • jay
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        Mike, then perhaps we can have another debate real soon. So Mitt can bitslap Obamateur again and reach 60%

    • jvnvch
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I suspect Gallup decided to show both results because they are about to switch from RV to LV, and the change may be dramatic if they do. Same for RCP. This 47-47 breakout is kind of a warning shot for Democrats, I’m guessing, so they won’t be overly surprised at losing that five point lead they think President Obama presently holds. Even the RV poll will tighten up tomorrow, for sure, if it’s reported, but if they go to LV tomorrow it will put Romney ahead, most likely.

      • George Panagiotidis
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

        jvnvch, nothing suggests that Gallup is switching to a LV screen tomorrow. Indeed, the 3-day slice is also RV, but has a lot more volatility in it, reacting to immediately post-debate through post-7.8% jobs numbers. The 7-day tracker smooths that volatility out, which is why you are seeing barely any movement for Romney, in fact we are right back where we were before the debate, at +5%. That is also reflected in Rasmussen’s poll. With Romney’s good Thursday numbers falling out of tomorrow’s poll, watch out. Rasmussen is likely going to see Obama in the lead tomorrow as well. And that is a LV poll with a strong Republican tilt.

      • jvnvch
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        George, I’m pretty sure even the 7-day RV tracker will tighten tomorrow, if it’s reported. We shall see.

      • jvnvch
        Posted October 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        Well, George, Gallup did go to LV, and Romney is ahead in that poll by two, 49-47, and they also reported the results of the RV poll, and it did tighten, just as I suspected it would.

    • Dan
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

      For heaven’s sake read the article. They split the 7 day tracking poll into two. Pre debate and post debate.

  5. George Panagiotidis
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Actually, this is a highly disingenuous article. Sure, the 3-day slice Gallup chose to highllight had a 47-47 tie, but today’s release of the 7-day tracker shows that that was just a flash in the pan. You see, today’s 7-day tracker release shows a major Obama surge to a 5% lead (from yesterday’s 3 pt. lead.) There is also the job approval numbers, which show Obama with a 51% to 44% approval/disapproval rating (Gallup’s approval ratings are based on a 3-day tracker.)

    So, here is the deal: Obviously Romney had a very good polling day on Thursday. Polling evened out on Friday, and on Saturday Obama had a very good polling day. Thus, the 3-day result of a tie after those 3 days are parsed. BUT, Obama must have continued to get great polling numbers on Sunday, carried over from Saturday for the Gallup average to jump to a 5% Obama lead. What that means is that Obama’s lead with Gallup is real, it is strong, and likely to continue throughout the week. It shows that Romney had one very good poll day, on Thursday, which led to the 3-day slice to result in a tie, but Romney had mediocre to bad poll numbers ever since, thus the now again expanded 5% lead.

    Once Romney’s great Thursday numbers fall out of the Gallup averages you will see an even larger Obama lead than the 5% we are seeing as of today. Romney’s tied polls are like the emperor who has no clothes on. They are exposed as nothing but wishful thinking, both by Rasmussen and now Gallup (with Rasmussen Romney’s great Thursday poll falls out in tomorrow’s Ras poll, likely leading to an Obama lead there, too.)

    • Posted October 8, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Basically the 7day tracker released today is from Last Monday through Yesterday.
      So that poll still shows 3 days pre-debate Obama coverage.
      Then you have Thursday through Sunday which is mixed with Pro-Romney Pro-Obama (jobs numbers). This is all from registered voters.

      The 3-day polls was specifcally just Thursday, Friday and Saturday which is still a mix of post debate bounce and positive jobs information. <<<< This polls of registered voters is probably a vetter gauge of where the country is today than the 7 day tracker which still has 3 days pre-debate in it.

      Rasmussen agrees….tie ballgame as of today. There was no SURGE by Obama. If you look at the 7 day tracker just before the debate Obama was leading by 5…there was no surge by Obama,

      • George Panagiotidis
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        But, shane, the notoriously slow moving 7-day tracker shows a jump from 3% to 5% towards Obama today. That suggests that Obama had good Saturday poll numbers (to make the score even at 47-47 in the 3-day slice, given Romney’s good Thursday polling) AND even better Sunday numbers. I think we are back to 4% to 6% now with Gallup moving forward, which is bad news for Romney. He had one, ONE, very good polling day, on Thursday, and a decent but not great poll day on Friday. Ever since his polls have collapsed again. That is also borne out by Ras, who showed Romney with a 2-pt. lead yesterday, surging a full 4 points in ONE day. Today it has snapped back again to a tie. Things aren’t moving in Romney’s direction, we are likely to be right back where we were pre-debate with both Gallup and Rasmussen by midweek.

      • Phil Brittain
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

        That didn’t make much sense. The 7-day rolling average for Sunday-Saturday was 49-46. That includes 4 days of pre-debate. Then the next day it was 50-45 with one less day of pre-debate. This suggests a surge on Sunday.

    • Vadim
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink | Reply


      You are correct that it looks like Obama had a really good polling day yesterday in the Gallup and same for Rasmussen. Possibly a reaction to the better than expected unemployment report from Friday. That said, let’s see what happens tomorrow:

      1) Gallup will most likely move towards Romney because Obama had a monster day on October 1st which will be dropped off tomorrow. Expect a 3 point lead at most…Also, note that registered voters don’t really matter as many of them will not show up. Likely voters are more relevant as we get very close to the election.
      2) Rasmussen today shows a tie (48 -48). The poll today is based on a three day average (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). Thursday is already out of the average. Tomorrow, we will drop off Friday which was good for Mitt. Let’s see what happens.

      Additionally, there is another poll out – Politico Battleground. It shows a 1 point advantage for Obama. There are three items that should worry Obama: 1) Much higher enthusiasm among the republicans 2) Romney leads among the independent voters by 16 points – this is huge 3) 85% of interviews were conducted before the debate.

      • George Panagiotidis
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

        The Politico poll shows a 1pt lead, and it had shown a 2-pt. lead pre-debate, an insignificant change (could even be just statistical noise.)

        The big worry for Romney has to be that Obama is showing 51% job approval numbers with both Ras and Gallup (both based on 3-day tracks.) Those are re-election approval numbers.

    • Bcrew
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Keep believing brother Obama is in trouble. These polls have been over sampling Dems to begin with. Early voting requests aren’t looking good for Obama. There’s a huge enthusiasm gap favoring Romney. Independents favor Romney. Unless something crazy happens before election day Obama will not be more than 2 points up best case scenario. As the article states undecideds will vote overwhelming for Romney. The author says obamas got to hope undecideds don’t vote. Good luck with that. Much more likely Obama supporters don’t vote, enthusiasm is just not there like 08.

    • j17
      Posted October 9, 2012 at 12:30 am | Permalink | Reply

      OMG read the article, pre debate is the 5% O lead, the tie is after the debate.And by the way if you think 114k jobs is okay your nuts during Reagan recovery, Clinton recovery gdp was over 3% monthly jobs report over 300k sometimes at 700k during Reagan recovery. This was a mess Obama inherited but he’s been able for two years to get whatever legislation he wanted through to fix this and he didn’t . And please stop saying the Obama 5% was after the debate READ THE ARTICLE.

  6. Vadim
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink | Reply


    As I pointed out in my comments, the Politico poll was conducted mostly before the debate (85% of respondents). This is really bad news for Obama.

    As far as approval numbers are concerned, they seem to be pretty volatile from day today. For example, Gallup was showing only 48% approval rating yesterday. Today it went up by 3 points. Rasmussen has been between 48-50% as well over last few days. So, you have to be very careful. If it is at 48% close to the election day, Obama will not win. Additionally, Obama is nowhere near 50% on job approval when it comes to economy. This is really bad for him, since economy is the #1 issue in this cycle.

    Note the Pew poll that just came out showing Mitt up 4 points among the likely voters, granted may be skewed towards a higher republican turn-out.

  7. froggy mcwilliams
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

    All wishful thinking, dude. Obama wins.

    • Bcrew
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Pot calling the kettle black. Look at the fundamentals and history and Obama is in big trouble. You can stick you head in the sand if you want but indicators do not look good for Obama.

  8. Sally
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Obama is up +5 in Gallup today!

    • Bcrew
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Please read articles before posting. +5 pre debate, tied after.

  9. Salem
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Rasmussen last month was polling at an R +4.3%, 37.6% to 33.3%
    Washington Examiner reported in “UnskewedPolls,com” that Rasmussen has in October been polling at a D+3. 39% to 36%.

    Pew has Romney up 49-45% today with an R+5, 36-31 with Likely Voters.

    So I disagree with George. Fordham University has Rasmussen and Pew as the top 1-2 accurate pollsters.

    In this election Republicans are far more energized shown in several polls, outregistering Democrats in Battle Ground states, Democrat requests for absentee ballots are down in Ohio by 40% and only down 10% for Republicans, In 2010 and 2004 Republicans voted in even numbers with Democrats, 2012 will be nothing like the Democrat 39-32 D+7 as in 2008, Obama has a depressionesque economy–that 7.8% unemployment number included 582,000 part time and 200,000 government jobs, 65% of people believe we’re on the wrong track, 62% of people believe this Obama “recovery” we’re in is a recession.

    If you poll an even number of Democrats and Republicans you’ll find Obama’s approval is below 50%.

    My preeiction is a 55-45% popular, roughly 350-190 Electoral Romney landslide

  10. joesmith
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    George, the Oct 1st through 7th poll drops September 30th. If you look at gallup average released september 29th and 30th you’ll notice a Romney uptick, indicating that the recent Obama increase is not necessarily due to a good poll day yesterday, it’s likely the combined factor of slight post-debate settle along with a good poll day for Romney being dropped, not a complete reversion to previous numbers.

  11. Glenn Koons, LB, Ca.
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I keep wondering if voters are aware of the huge domestic and international failures piling up for Obama and the Dems.? Look, this is not the same Dem Party of Truman, JFK, Scoop Jackson, Sam Nunn. These people in the Senate, House ala Reid and Pelosi, plus Bama are the most leftist radical people ever to hold power in America. They do not like America in its heritage, history and values. If Americans finally wake up to this and the failures (whether it is in energy, gas pump prices, taxes, regulations, Obamacare, foreign policy, scandals such as Fast and Libya) we might see even more distance between Romney and Obama . Obama’s record is horrid and the polls should reflect it if if if the public just woke up to the facts…not emotions or PC baloney.

  12. valwayne
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The Gallup post debate tracking tied at 47:47 is a Registered Voter Poll. Today’s Pew poll which is the first complete poll following the debate also showed a tie among Registered voters, but among Likely Voters they show Gov Romney ahead 49 to 45%. The Gallup poll doesn’t switch to likely voters until closer to the election, but its well know that Republicans and Republican leaning Independents are more likely to show up at the polls so among those that will vote in the election Romney is almost certainly ahead by 3 to 6 points with Gallup as well. Its pretty safe to say right now that Gov Romney looked and sounded like a President with a PLAN to make things better during the Debate while Obama had NO PLAN, and NO CLUE. and Gov Romney has bounced into the Lead nationally. We’ll have to see if Gov Romney can maintain the lead, but it looks like the country is deciding that Obama needs to go.

  13. Rental
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 12:44 am | Permalink | Reply

    Btw has anybody reported Gallup to attack watch, or any other of obamas truth bureaus?

    Once the bloom goes off the shiny guy, he’s toast, as the depths of his incompetence and deception and antimamericanism will be a deep well of discovery. And shame.

  14. Posted October 9, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hopefully common sense will be our guide as we cannot afford another Bush disaster!!

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