Mitt Romney edged President Obama in Gallup’s first national survey of likely voters in the 2012 race, released Tuesday.
Romney took 49 percent support against Obama at 47 percent.
Among registered voters, which Gallup has been tracking all year, Obama maintains an advantage of 3 percentage points over Romney, 49 to 46 percent.
Gallup polls only registered voters early in the cycle, but as Election Day nears, it prods for more information from voters to determine the likelihood that a registered voter will end up casting a ballot.
Many believe surveys of likely voters are more accurate than those that only survey registered voters. However, Gallup noted that sometimes, as in 2008, “there was only a marginal difference between the vote choices of registered voters and likely voters,” while other times, as in 1996, “there was a much more substantial difference.”
“Neither result provides a candidate with a statistically significant lead,” Frank Newport wrote in his Gallup analysis. “But together they do underscore the competitive nature of the election and indicate that Romney at this point benefits from turnout patterns, given the five-point swing in his favor when the transition is made from registered voters to likely voters.”
Polling experts are struggling to get a handle on what the recent raft of survey data signals in light of Romney’s convincing debate win and recent spike in the polls.