May 15, 2012 Americans See Obama as Solid Favorite to Win Election Fifty-six percent think Obama will win; 36% think Romney will by Jeffrey M. Jones PRINCETON, NJ -- Fifty-six percent of Americans think Barack Obama will win the 2012 presidential election, compared with 36% who think Mitt Romney will win. Democrats are more likely to believe that Obama will win than Republicans are to believe Romney will. Independents are nearly twice as likely to think that Obama, rather than Romney, will prevail. The results are based on a May 10-13 USA Today/Gallup poll. The poll was conducted at a time when U.S. registered voters are evenly divided in their vote preferences. Gallup's latest Daily tracking update, based on May 8-14 interviewing, shows 46% of voters preferring Obama and 45% Romney. It is unclear why Americans are more inclined to predict an Obama than a Romney victory when the two are essentially tied in Gallup's latest election polling. It may be that Americans recognize the advantages Obama has as the incumbent and that historically, presidents seeking re-election usually win. For example, in March 2004, when President George W. Bush and John Kerry were about tied in voter preferences, more said Bush (52%) than Kerry (42%) would win. Or, Americans may expect in the months between now and the election that conditions in the U.S. will improve, which would make the incumbent's re-election more certain. Americans are a bit more likely now to say Obama has a better chance of winning than they were at a similar point in 2008. A June 2008 Gallup poll found 52% predicting Obama would win, while 41% thought Republican John McCain would. By October 2008, weeks after the financial crisis, Americans were more certain Obama would win that election, 71% to 23%. Including the 2008 election, Americans' predictions of the four prior presidential elections were also generally accurate. In three separate measurements in 2004, Americans thought Bush would be the winner in two and were split in their predictions in the other, conducted immediately after the Democratic convention. In the final prediction, from mid-October, 56% thought Bush would win and 36% thought Kerry would. The accuracy of the 2000 election prediction is harder to evaluate, given that Al Gore won the popular vote and George W. Bush the electoral vote. In four out of five measurements that year, Americans thought Bush would win, though in the final measurement, taken in mid-September, Americans gave Gore the edge. In an August 1996 poll, Americans overwhelmingly believed incumbent Bill Clinton (69%) would defeat Bob Dole (24%). Implications Americans currently see Obama as a solid favorite to win re-election. This is perhaps a slightly more optimistic assessment than is currently warranted, given that registered voters' candidate preferences are evenly split between Obama and Romney. However, Americans have typically given an edge to the incumbent in years in which a president was seeking re-election. In addition to the close division in current Obama-Romney vote intentions, other key election indicators also point to a more uncertain outcome at this point, including Americans' sub-50% approval ratings of the president and their more negative than positive assessments of the U.S. economy. At the same time, both of those measures are improved from where they were last fall, indicating Americans are feeling a bit better about the job Obama is doing and about the economy than they were earlier in his presidency. Gallup will continue to track voters' preferences for the general election, approval of President Obama, and economic confidence on a daily basis between now and the election, and provide periodic updates of Americans' predictions of whether Obama or Romney will win the election.