Mitt Romney is tied with President Obama, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, but the people who plan to vote for him are motivated more by their opposition to the president than by their support for the Republican challenger.
The survey published Tuesday showed 47 percent of registered voters favor Obama and 47 percent prefer Romney. The former Massachusetts governor has closed a 3-point gap since the poll was conducted last, in May.
But if voters are moving toward Romney, it is not because they back him enthusiastically, the poll indicated. Fifty-nine percent of likely Romney voters characterized their decision as a vote against Obama; only 37 percent called it a vote for Romney.
By contrast, 75 percent of likely Obama voters called their choice a vote for the president and just 23 percent termed it a vote against Romney.
The motivations of Romney voters are also different from those of John McCain voters four years ago. At this time in 2008, 70 percent of likely McCain voters said they were voting for the Arizona senator, compared to 28 percent who said they were voting against Obama.
The most recent parallel for Romney is John Kerry, who ran against incumbent President George W. Bush in 2004. In July of that year, 56 percent of likely Kerry voters called their decision a vote against Bush; 41 percent said it was a vote for Kerry.
The motivations of Kerry voters were virtually identical in a later poll, conducted in September 2004. Anti-Bush sentiment proved insufficient for the Massachusetts senator, who went on to lose the election in November.
Tuesday’s Washington Post/ABC News poll was conducted July 5 to 8 and included 855 registered voters. It had a margin of error of four percentage points.
Callum Borchers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.