Two polls released Monday both show President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney tied in the presidential race.
USA Today/Gallup's swing-state poll shows Obama with 47 percent support and Romney with 45 percent support in the 12 most closely contested states which will likely determine the outcome of the election. Since the margin of error is plus or minus four percentage points, the results are essentially a tie.
The poll shows improvement for Romney. In the same poll conducted a month earlier, Obama had a nine percentage point advantage (51 percent to 42 percent).
The poll of 951 registered swing-state voters was conducted April 26-May 2.
The other poll, a national poll (all 50 states) released Monday by Politico/George Washington University also shows a dead heat. Romney has 48 percent of the vote and Obama has 47 percent of the vote. The April 29-May 3 poll of 1,000 likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The poll did not mention Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, by name, but asked respondents if they would vote for Obama or the Republican nominee.
Like the USA Today/Gallup poll, this poll shows improvement for Romney. In the same poll conducted in February, Obama had a nine percentage point lead.
Together, the polls contain both good and bad news for Obama's reelection chances.
The good news for Obama is that his supporters show more intensity and enthusiasm. In the USA Today/Gallup poll, 36 percent of swing-state voters said they were certain they would vote for Obama while only 32 percent said they were certain they would vote for Romney. Also, 55 percent of Obama's supporters said they were "extremely enthusiastic" or "very enthusiastic" about voting for him, but only 46 percent of Romney's supporters said they were extremely or very enthusiastic.
The bad news for Obama, on the other hand, is that Romney has a big advantage among independent voters and a majority of voters believe the country is on the wrong track.
The Politico/George Washington University poll shows Romney with a 10 percentage point lead, 48 percent to 38 percent, among independents. In a close election, independents in a few key swing states could determine the outcome.
Elections with an incumbent on the ballot are often seen by voters as a referendum on the incumbent. For this reason, the polling question, "do you feel things in the country are going in the right direction or do you feel things have gotten off on the wrong track?" can be a good predictor of whether or not the incumbent will get reelected.
Fifty-two percent of respondents said they "strongly" feel that the country has gotten off on the wrong track in the Politico/George Washington University poll. An additional seven percent agreed but did not feel strongly about it.
The two polls provide a helpful snapshot of where the race stands, but they should be understood in context. The presidency is not won in a national election, or by combining the votes in 12 swing states. The election is won by winning enough states to gather at least 270 electors in the electoral college.
The Christian Post reported last week that Obama has an advantage in the electoral college because he begins the race with more electoral college votes that will almost certainly go to him. There are fewer swing states, therefore, that Obama would need to win to win the election.