The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Post-ABC tracking poll: Romney 49 percent, Obama 48

The new Washington Post-ABC News national tracking poll has 49 percent of likely voters supporting Republican Mitt Romney, and 48 percent President Obama, a seesawing result that shows the continued narrowness of the contest.

The change from yesterday's Post-ABC tracking poll, which showed the race 49 to 48 percent the other way, is statistically insignificant, and the numbers do not include any public reaction to the third and final presidential debate Monday night. Almost all of Monday's interviews were conducted before the debate started.

But there are fledgling signs of a fresh advantage for the challenger. Asked whom they trust on the economy, 50 percent of likely voters say Romney while 45 percent side with the president. That’s the first time this fall that either candidate has had even an apparent edge on the clear No. 1 issue on voters’ minds. Political independents break for Romney by a 12-percentage-point margin on the subject, a high for the campaign.

The president counters with a steady, seven-point advantage among all likely voters when it comes to empathizing with the economic problems people are having, unmoved from yesterday.

A main challenge for Obama’s bid for reelection remains structural: Likely voters divide down the middle when it comes to assessing his job performance: 49 percent approve and 49 percent disapprove. And as has been the case for the entire stretch run of the race, more voters “strongly disapprove” than “strongly approve” of how he is doing his job.

At this time in 2004, likely voters had a slightly positive tilt toward George W. Bush as he struggled – ultimately successfully – for reelection: 52 percent approved of his overall job performance; fewer, 46 percent, disapproved. Former president Bill Clinton boasted an even higher 58 percent approval rating among likely voters about a month before he was reelected in 1996. In late October 1992, George H.W. Bush’s  approval numbers sagged below 40 percent among registered voters just before he lost his bid for a second term.

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. 19-22, among a random sample of 1,382 likely voters. Results for this sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. Question wording, results and methodology available here.