USC Annenberg-Los Angeles Times Poll shows presidential race in dead heat
In a just-released national survey leading up to the Republican National Convention, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden lead the Republican ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan by a slim margin of 48 to 46 percent among likely voters, with just 3 percent of voters undecided.
These results from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism-Los Angeles Times Poll on Politics and the Press — which surveyed 1,009 registered voters nationwide from Aug. 13 to Aug. 19 — are within one point of how Obama and Romney perform head-to-head, with Obama edging Romney 49-46 without their running mates.
Overall, the Democratic ticket leads 51-41 among younger voters, and the Republican ticket leads 50-45 among voters over the age of 49.
By gender, Obama/Biden lead Romney/Ryan 51-43 among women voters, while Romney/Ryan lead among men, 48-44. By ethnicity, the incumbents lead 76-17 among minority voters, and Romney/Ryan lead 55-39 among white voters. Ninety-two percent of black voters and 68 percent of Latino voters support Obama/Biden, while 2 percent of black voters and 27 percent of Latino voters support Romney/Ryan.
Voters are similarly split by income, with those earning less than $50,000 a year supporting Obama/Biden by a margin of 55-40, and those earning more than $50,000 a year supporting Romney/Ryan by a margin of 52-43, according to the poll results.
“Heading into the conventions, for all practical purposes, this race is tied,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. “But there are deep differences between the two candidates’ bases of support on age, gender and ethnicity.
“This country is divided along stark demographic lines — and there’s almost nobody left in the middle,” Schnur said.
The USC Annenberg-Los Angeles Times Poll also asked how voters get their news.
Eighty percent of the registered voters surveyed said they were following election news closely. But there was a generation gap in how voters learned that Romney had selected Wisconsin Rep. Ryan as his running mate.
A majority of likely voters — 53 percent — said they first heard the news on television, and older voters were 23 percentage points more likely to have heard the news this way than younger voters: 62 percent of voters over the age of 49 found out about Ryan’s selection on television, compared to 39 percent of voters aged 18-29.
Younger voters were much more likely to have learned about Ryan’s selection online. More than a third of voters 18-49 first heard of Ryan’s selection on a computer, smartphone or tablet — more than double the 17 percent of voters over the age of 49.
Among all likely voters, 21 percent heard about Ryan’s selection on the Internet, compared to 11 percent who got the news on the radio, 5 percent who heard about it through word of mouth, 4 percent who learned the news on a smartphone and 3 percent who got the news from a newspaper.
Of those who learned that Ryan would be the Republican vice presidential nominee online, 35 percent of likely voters got the news via an email from a news organization, 17 percent found out on Facebook and 7 percent got the news on Twitter.
“These findings underscore the need for well-trained journalists at every level,” said Geoffrey Cowan, USC University Professor and director of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy. “Our question about how voters learned about the selection of Paul Ryan as the vice presidential candidate documents the growing use of digital and social media as a source for breaking news and analysis, especially among younger voters.”
The poll also surveyed voters about President George W. Bush’s tax cuts, which were extended by Obama and are set to expire at the end of the year. Forty-three percent of likely voters said the tax cuts should be kept in place for those making less than $250,000 a year but not for high earners. Thirty-seven percent said the tax cuts should remain at all income levels, and 13 percent said the tax cuts should be allowed to expire.
On the issue of immigration, 61 percent of likely voters favored Obama’s proposal to allow illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to gain legal resident status if they complete two years of military service or college and have no criminal record. Thirty percent of voters opposed the proposal.
Overall, Obama’s favorability rating is 53-45, buoyed by the 82 percent of minority voters who said they had a favorable view of the president. Forty-three percent of white voters nationwide have a favorable view of Obama, and 55 percent have an unfavorable view.
Romney’s favorability is split at 45-48, with 52 percent of white voters viewing him favorably and 42 percent viewing him unfavorably. Among minority voters, 27 percent have a favorable view of Romney, and 67 percent have an unfavorable view.
Nearly one in four voters were unable to identify Ryan, with 39 percent of voters who know who he is having a favorable view and 32 percent having an unfavorable view.
The USC Annenberg-Los Angeles Times Poll is a project of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy. The poll was conducted on behalf of USC and the Los Angeles Times by Republican polling firm American Viewpoint and Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. The full sample of 1,009 registered voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Additional survey results will be released on Aug. 24 on media consumption habits and whether voters trust news outlets, such as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, national newspapers and Facebook.
Follow all election news coverage at Election 2012, a resource for journalists and others interested in politics created by USC Media Relations.