After days of small ticks up and down, the Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll starts its second week with a tied contest: 49 percent of likely voters support President Obama and exactly the same number back Republican Mitt Romney.
Little has been able to budge the presidential contest definitively one way or the other, nor has voters’ impressions of their own financial well-being changed over the course of the intense, expensive fall campaign.
Just as in early September, 33 percent of likely voters say they are worse off than they were four years ago, with just over 20 percent (now 22) saying things are better financially. Now, as then, nearly half say things are about the same. This split in opinion remains far more similar to impressions before George H.W. Bush lost his bid for a second term in 1992 than when Bill Clinton won his four years later.
By 2 to 1, more independents say they are not as well off as they were when Obama became president than say they are now in better shape financially (36 to 18 percent).
But one persistent obstacle for the challenger counterbalances: A slim but steady majority of voters say he would do more to favor the wealthy over the middle class were he to win the presidency. Two-thirds see Obama prioritizing the middle class, not the wealthy.
The current contest appears to be just as knotted up across eight hotly contested swing states in interviewing over the past 11 days. In aggregated data across the national tracking poll with likely voters in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin, it is a nearly identical 49 percent for Obama and 48 percent for Romney.
Both sides have focused their heaviest campaigning in these states, with more than half of television advertising taking place in Florida, Ohio and Virginia alone. In the Post-ABC tracking poll, more than a third of all likely voters in the eight “toss-up” states say they have heard from a representative of the Obama campaign, either in person, on the phone or via e-mail in the past week alone. Nearly as many report being contacted during the week by someone from the Romney side asking for their vote.
The Obama and Romney campaigns have spent particular energy in getting supporters to vote early, before Election Day. Fully 21 percent of likely voters across these states say they have cast their ballot. Another 28 percent say they plan to do so between now and Nov. 6.
At the national level, the race has been tightly competitive from the outset in Post-ABC polling of likely voters, with both Obama and Romney almost always hovering within a narrow band of 47 and 50 percent support.
The two presidential candidates are also nearly tied in the new tracking poll on the question of which one voters trust to handle the economy -- 49 percent say Romney, 47 percent Obama. Romney had staked out a clear advantage on the campaign’s dominant issue toward the end of last week. Things have also tilted marginally back in Obama’s direction when it comes to better understanding the economic problems people are having.
On priorities, by a 10-point margin (48 to 38 percent), political independents say Romney would tilt policy toward the wealthy rather than the middle class. By contrast, nearly two-thirds of independents (64 percent) see Obama as favoring the middle class, not the wealthy, with his policies. Still, Romney gets the nod from independents nationally when it comes to vote choice: 53 percent support his candidacy, while 43 percent would vote to reelect the president.
The Post-ABC tracking poll is a series of consecutive one-night “waves” of interviews reported as a rolling, multi-night average. The new results are for interviews conducted Oct. 25-28, among a random sample of 1,259 likely voters. Results for this sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.