President Barack Obama is tied with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at 47 percent among likely voters, according to a poll released Monday afternoon by the Pew Research Center, echoing earlier polls that found the candidates circling each other closely since the first presidential debate in early October. Thirteen percent of likely voters remain undecided.
The poll confirms that the first presidential debate significantly altered some of the race's fundamentals, mostly by changing Romney's image, helping to establish him as a more likable, winnable candidate, and leaving him nearly deadlocked nationally with Obama. Enthusiasm for Romney also jumped after the first debate, with Republicans increasingly likely to express interest in the campaign and to say they're voting for Romney, rather than against Obama.
Thirty-six percent of voters said the debates on a whole improved their image of Romney, while only 18 percent said the same of Obama. Romney's favorability rating is now at 50 percent among registered voters, nearly identical with the president's.
The former Massachusetts governor also has the support of 57 percent of registered voters who "think of their vote as a vote for Mitt Romney, not as a vote against Barack Obama," according to Pew. That's the highest that number has been in the campaign. However, Obama still ranks higher, with nearly three-quarters of his supporters describing their vote as one for the president, and not one against Romney.
Romney has solidified a lead on economic issues, with 50 percent of registered voters viewing him as more likely to improve jobs, compared to 42 percent who put more faith in Obama. Half of voters said they don't think Obama knows how to repair the economy.
But on other issues, Obama retains a strategic edge. He is still viewed as more consistent, moderate and honest, and better equipped to work across party lines. Despite narrowing numbers after the first debate, he's still considered to be the stronger leader. Fifty-nine percent of Americans say Obama connects better with them, compared to 31 percent who say Romney has a better connection.
Polls have changed significantly for Obama since March, when nearly 60 percent of all voters and 86 percent of his supporters expected him to win. But a 49 percent plurality of voters, including 82 percent of his backers, still expect him to win reelection.
The Pew poll surveyed 1,495 likely voters by phone between Oct. 24 and 28, with a 2.9 percent margin of error. The full sample was 2,008 adults, with a 2.5 percent margin of error.