CNN Poll: Obama, Romney In Dead Heat Among Likely Voters

Kyle Leighton

President Obama holds a solid lead among registered voters, but is in a virtual dead heat with Mitt Romney among likely voters, according to a new poll. The poll also suggests voters are warming to Romney personally.

In the CNN survey released Friday, Obama leads Romney by 2 points among likely voters in the, 49 percent to Romney's 47 percent. That's a big difference from the much wider pool of registered voters -- where Obama leads Romney 52 percent to 43 percent.

But CNN warned against comparing those two samples:

"Likely voters have traditionally been a more Republican group in past elections because they tend to turn out in higher numbers than Democrats, and 2012 looks like it is no exception. This explains why the margin between President Obama and Mitt Romney is smaller among likely voters," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But it is a mistake to say that the race has tightened in the past few weeks, given the lack of movement in the results for registered voters."

In an election, it all comes down to turnout, and that's what a likely voter model is all about. The more enthusiastic you are about voting, the likelier you are to actually vote in November. According to the poll, 35% of registered Republicans questioned say they are extremely enthusiastic about voting, six points higher than the 29% of Democrats who feel the same way.

The PollTracker Average (which takes the likely voter sample when available) shows Romney and Obama tied at 46.4 percent nationally.

Many pollsters have noted that Romney's favorability rating has been historically low for a major candidate at this point in the race, but the CNN numbers show it moving up. Among likely voters, 50 percent view the former governor favorably, versus 46 percent who see him unfavorably. That's an improvement from CNN's last rating, which showed Romney at 47 percent favorable to 48 percent unfavorable. A poll from Fox News released Thursday also showed Romney with a positive personal rating, 49 percent favorable and 44 percent unfavorable.

That also pushes Romney into positive territory in the PollTracker Average of his favorability rating.

While Romney's image has picked up, CNN said that the addition of Rep. Paul Ryan to the GOP ticket didn't make an enormous impact on the race. "From a historical perspective, Ryan ranks in the middle of the pack among recent vice presidential nominees," Holland told "He's not as well-received as Joe Biden or Dick Cheney initially were, but he's definitely not another Dan Quayle. Joe Lieberman is the running mate who put up numbers most like the ones Ryan now gets."

The CNN poll used an overall sample of 1,055 Americans interviewed by telephone (802 by landline and 253 via cell) conducted Aug. 22-23. Within that is sample of 924 registered voters with a margin of error that is 3 percent, and 719 likely voters with a sampling error of 3.5 percent.