The race simply could not be any closer. New Gallup,
Rasumussen and Fox News
polls earlier this week show Mitt Romney and Barack Obama
tied at 46 percent each.
There is a lot of noise in these polls, and each of them
arrived at its destination through different routes.
As of Wednesday morning, Obama was up 3 points in the
The Gallup poll has been especially volatile,
showing three lead changes in April alone. This includes
two successive weeks in mid-April when first Romney and
then Obama held leads outside the margin of error.
The Rasmussen survey has been more stable over that
period, showing Romney generally holding a lead near the
margin of error.
In addition to differences in how they got here, the polls
differ considerably in who they sample. Gallup and Fox
News both sample registered voters, while Rasmussen
filters and samples only likely voters. A registered voter
survey normally will favor Democrats, whose supporters
generally turn out in lower percentages at the polls.
Even further down the food chain is the “all adults”
sample, taken by the National Journal on April 22,
that showed Obama leading by eight points.
Most experts agree that April polls are relatively
meaningless, as the voters have not yet begun to think
seriously about the choices. As Nate Silver at the New York Times notes, “The
leader in national polls at the end of April in the past
two elections has gone on to win. Before 2004, however,
the April leader lost the popular vote more often than
Eric Schulzke writes on national
politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at