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UNC/HPU Poll: Romney Debate Bounce Tightens Presidential Race in N.C.

10.12.2012

HIGH POINT, N.C., Oct. 12, 2012 – A new UNC/HPU Poll, conducted on the High Point University campus with support and collaboration from the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication, points to a reversal of support for the leading presidential candidate in North Carolina following the first presidential debate.

Although the poll found a slim 46 to 45 percent lead for President Barack Obama across the entire two-week polling period (Sept. 29 to Oct. 10) over former Gov. Mitt Romney, interviews conducted after the Oct. 3 presidential debate suggest a “debate effect” that shifted the advantage from Obama to Republican challenger Romney.

A cell phone and landline telephone survey of 605 registered voters conducted between Sept. 29 and Oct. 10 found that 46 percent of polled North Carolina registered voters would vote for Obama “if the election were held today,” compared to 45 percent who said they would vote for Romney, a slight increase in support (from 43 percent) for the former Massachusetts governor since mid-September. 

A closer look at the data, however, suggests a shift related to the first presidential debate between Obama and Romney that occurred on Oct. 3. Prior to the debate, 49 percent said they would vote for Obama and 40 percent chose Romney. After the debate, 49 percent of those surveyed chose Romney compared to 43 percent for Obama.

A previous live interviewer HPU Poll conducted in mid-September found that 46 percent of N.C. registered voters would vote for Obama while 43 percent said they would vote for Romney.

Other findings in the most recent UNC/HPU Poll show Obama’s job approval rating at 45 percent with 50 percent disapproval, a decline of four points since the last HPU Poll. A closer look shows Obama’s approval rating at 47 percent before the debate and 43 percent after Oct. 3. 

Presidential race – registered voters

Thinking ahead to the November 2012 elections, if the election for President of the United States were held today would you be voting for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?  

Barack Obama – 46 percent

Mitt Romney – 45 percent

(Other) – 2 percent

(Don’t plan to vote) – 1 percent

(Don’t know/Refuse) – 6 percent

(For registered voters, Sept. 29 to Oct. 10, n = 605, margin of sampling error is approximately 4 percent, percentages may not total 100 due to rounding)

Before the October 3rd Presidential Debate

Barack Obama – 49 percent

Mitt Romney – 40 percent

(Other) – 2 percent

(Don’t plan to vote) – 1 percent

(Don’t know/Refuse) – 8 percent

(For registered voters, Sept. 29 to Oct. 3, n = 291, margin of sampling error is approximately 5.75 percent, percentages may not total 100 due to rounding)

After the October 3rd Presidential Debate

Barack Obama – 43 percent

Mitt Romney – 49 percent

(Other) – 2 percent

(Don’t plan to vote) – 1 percent

(Don’t know/Refuse) – 5 percent

(For registered voters, Oct. 4 to Oct. 10, n = 312, margin of sampling error is approximately 5.55 percent, percentages may not total 100 due to rounding)

“The ‘consensus’ seems to be that the president did not fare as well in the first debate as his supporters would have liked,” said Dr. Daniel Riffe, the Richard Cole Eminent Professor at UNC’s  School of Journalism and Mass Communication, who helped design and fund the survey. “Even the president has said he ‘had a bad night.’ Romney supporters, on the other hand, would see the debate outcome reflecting the fact that the challenger had a very strong performance. However you label it, the data are clear.”

“When we look at the apparent shift in the vote for president and the possible direction of President Obama’s approval numbers, we see that this race is not necessarily headed to an easily foreseeable conclusion,” says Dr. Martin Kifer, director of the HPU Poll. “We continue to see a consistently close contest that is nevertheless somewhat reactive to campaign events.”

Presidential Job approval – Registered voters

Do you approve or disapprove of the way that Barack Obama is handling his job as president?

Approve – 45 percent
Disapprove – 50 percent
(Don’t know/Refuse) – 5 percent

(For registered voters, Sept. 29 to Oct. 10, n = 605, margin of sampling error is approximately 4 percent, percentages may not total 100 due to rounding)

With support and collaboration from Riffe at the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the High Point University Survey Research Center, the survey was fielded from Sept. 29 to Oct. 4 and Oct. 6 to Oct. 10, 2012. The responses came from 605 registered voters with landline or cellular telephones in North Carolina selected by a Random Digit Dial (RDD) method giving the overall survey a margin of sampling error of approximately 4 percentage points. Registered voters were identified as responding “yes” to this question: These days, many people are so busy they can’t find time to register to vote, or move around so often they don’t get a chance to re-register. Are you NOW registered to vote in your precinct or election district here in North Carolina or haven’t you been able to register so far? For smaller subsamples, including those before and after the debate, the margin of sampling error is larger. The data are weighted toward population estimates for age and race. The population estimates for race were taken from North Carolina Board of Elections data for the week of Oct. 6. The population estimates for age were taken from the U.S. Census estimates of registered voters for North Carolina. In addition to sampling error, factors such as question wording and other methodological choices in conducting survey research can introduce additional error into the findings of opinion polls. Dr. Sadie Leder, assistant professor of psychology, serves as the associate director of the HPU Poll.

Further results and methodological details from the survey and can be found at the Survey Research Center website at http://src.highpoint.edu/

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