Polling data released this week by Gallup show Republican challenger and Michigan native Mitt Romney leading President Barack Obama 47-45.
This report, based on interviews with 2,265 registered voters between April 11 — the day Rick Santorum dropped out of the race for the GOP nomination — and Monday. Gallup says it will release tracking numbers on a five-day basis between now and the election in November.
The results are within the poll’s three-point margin of error and show each candidate with 90 percent support from voters who identify with his respective party.
Here’s Gallup’s analysis of what the numbers mean:
History shows that the candidates’ positioning in the spring of an election year is not necessarily good at forecasting the election outcomes. For example, in an April 20-22, 1992, Gallup poll, incumbent President George H.W. Bush was ahead with 41% of the vote, compared with 26% for Bill Clinton and 25% for Ross Perot. And in an April 11-14, 1980, poll, incumbent President Jimmy Carter led Ronald Reagan by 42% to 34%, with John Anderson receiving 18% support. Both Bush and Carter, of course, ultimately lost their re-election bids.
Still, the site notes, the numbers are useful for historical purposes, since they offer a snapshot of voters’ attitudes at the outset of the general race, as Romney’s nomination is all but certain.
Other polls tell a slightly different story. Ronald Brownstein of the National Journal notes that three other reports released at the same time show Obama in the lead. US News and World Report aggregates other polling data and concludes that the race is a dead heat at this early stage. ABC News calls it a statistical tie.
Obama’s campaign, meanwhile, has criticized Gallup’s methodology.