(NEW YORK) — As it enters its frenetic final week, the presidential race is drawing more close attention than any such contest in 28 years, a testament to a campaign that has been the closest by some measures in pre-election polls dating back even further — to 1960, or even to the early days of polling in 1936.
Support for President Obama and Mitt Romney has averaged 48-48 percent since September, the closest in ABC/Washington Post polls — or Gallup polls before them — in comparable periods dating back 76 years. It’s also the first contest since 1960 in which neither candidate, in this period, has exceeded 50 percent support (adjusting for third-party vote where applicable).
Holding steady the past three days, the gap is now a single point, with 49 percent support for Romney among likely voters, and 48 percent for Obama in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. At this stage in 2008, Obama had held majority support since Oct. 11.
The comparison of the average gap between the leading candidates was done using results from September through this point before the election in ABC/Post polls since 1984 and available Gallup polls before them dating to 1936. The data are thin in some years — just one poll from this period in 1944, and just three in 1940, 1948, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1972 and 1980.
The tight race is making it a closely-followed one. Sixty-eight percent of likely voters say they’re following the election “very” closely — a non-significant two points more than at this time four years ago, and the most in ABC/Post or Gallup polls dating to the second Reagan election.
Possible effects of Hurricane Sandy, bearing down on the Northeast, are unclear. but high attention to the election could presage high voter turnout. Additionally, marking Romney’s competitiveness compared with John McCain’s in 2008, close attention is up, especially among conservatives and Republicans, two of his strongest support groups.
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Kendra Evensen, Idaho State Journal
Shelbie Harris, Idaho State Journal
Robert Patten, EastIdahoNews.com columnist
Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com columnist