Where Were They Now? A Look at Presidents' Re-Election Polling in Late Spring
Now that's it's June, we're nearing a summer that will be dominated, as it is every four years, by the full-bore presidential race: candidates and campaigns bickering publicly, schlepping across the country and begging us for votes.
President Obama and Mitt Romney are neck-and-neck in most major polls, including ABC News'. With a bad economy that's slowly improving, and a big debate looming over deficits, taxes and entitlements, the race is shaping up as a tight one.
But before we cross the seasonal Rubicon into campaign summer, here's a comparison of where the 2012 race stands compared to Junes past. Below are a few broad metrics from late spring of the last five years in which an incumbent president sought re-election.
June polls haven't always offered a clear consensus of led past presidential races. In the last presidential re-election campaign, 2004, polls differed. Multiple surveys in late May and early June showed John Kerry leading George W. Bush nationally, including those taken by Gallup and CBS, while ABC's polling showed a tie.
Nor are they always predictive. While Ronald Reagan led Jimmy Carter in ABC polling in the spring of 1980, Gallup showed Carter ahead 43 percent to 35 percent.
In 2012, June polling indicates a close race. In the latest ABC News/Washington Post survey, Obama led Romney 49 percent to 46 percent, while Gallup's most recent poll showed Obama holding a one-percentage-point lead. Both results were within the respective polls' margins of error, meaning the race stands in a statistical dead heat.
BARACK OBAMA VS. MITT ROMNEY: 2012
Horse Race: Obama 49 percent, Romney 46 percent (ABC/Washington Post May 17-20)
Obama Approval: 42 percent (ABC/Washington Post May 17-20)
May Unemployment: 8.2 percent
National Results: ?
GEORGE W. BUSH VS. JOHN KERRY: 2004
Horse Race: Bush 46 percent, Kerry 46 percent, Nader 4 percent (ABC/Washington Post May 20-23)
Bush Approval: 48 percent (ABC/Washington Post May 20-23)
May Unemployment: 5.6 percent
National Results: Bush 51 percent, 286 Electoral College votes; Kerry 48%, 252 Electoral College votes; Nader 1%, 0 electoral votes
BILL CLINTON VS. BOB DOLE: 1996
Horse Race: Clinton 52 percent, Dole 31 percent (ABC News May 20-22)
Clinton Approval: 57 percent (ABC/Washington Post, May 20-22)
May Unemployment: 5.6 percent
National Results: Clinton 49 percent, 379 Electoral College votes; Dole 41 percent, 159 Electoral College votes
GEORGE H.W. BUSH VS. BILL CLINTON VS. ROSS PEROT: 1992
Horse Race: Perot 35 percent, Bush 30 percent, Clinton 25 percent (ABC/Washington Post, May 27-30)
Bush Approval: 35 percent (ABC/Washington Post June 3-7)
Unemployment: 5.6 percent
National Results: Clinton 43 percent, 370 Electoral College votes; Bush 37 percent, 168 Electoral College votes; Perot 19 percent, zero electoral votes
JIMMY CARTER VS. RONALD REAGAN: 1980
Horse Race: Reagan 51 percent, Carter 44 percent (ABC/Harris, June 5-9)
Carter Approval: 32 percent (Gallup June 13-16)
Unemployment: 7.6 percent
National Results: Reagan 51 percent, 498 Electoral College votes; Carter 41 percent, 49 Electoral College votes
Note: This post has been updated.