The first Gallup poll of the general election campaign shows Mitt Romney edging out President Obama, a close result that both parties expect will be the case through much of the next seven months.
The former Massachusetts governor, emerging from a difficult and longer-than-expected Republican nomination battle, has the support of 47% of registered voters nationwide, while the president has the support of 45%. Two percent of voters said they supported another candidate, while 7% were undecided.
That's a statistical tie, given the survey's margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Among the independent voters that will ultimately decide the race, Romney has a six-point lead, 45% to 39%, with 12% undecided.
Gallup says it began its daily tracking poll on April 11, the day after Rick Santorum suspended his campaign for the GOP nomination, essentially clearing the path for Romney. The random sample of 2,265 registered voters ended April 15.
Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport said the horse-race numbers this early in the election year have not always been a reliable indicator of the final outcome. In 1992, George H.W. Bush led Bill Clinton by double-digits. Jimmy Carter led Ronald Reagan by 8 percentage points at a similar stage in 1980.
But historically, polling below 50% in the first trial heat has been an ominous indicator for incumbent presidents. Obama's approval rating in the latest daily tracking poll is 45%.
An Obama campaign spokesman declined to comment on the poll.
Original source: First general election Gallup poll shows Romney edging Obama