President Obama and Mitt Romney remain locked in a near-even race for the White House on the eve of Election Day, according to the last NBC/Wall Street Journal pre-election poll.
President Obama drew 48% to Mr. Romney's 47% among likely voters. The telephone survey of 1,475 likely voters, conducted Nov. 1-3, carries a margin for error of 2.55 percentage points.
The incumbent's hairs-breadth lead stems from his 51%-43% lead among women. Mr. Romney holds a comparable 51%-44% lead among men, but men remain a slightly smaller proportion of the electorate.
The even race reflects the country's near-even split on the Democratic incumbent's performance in office. Some 49% of voters approve his handling of his job; an identical 49% approves.
Mr. Obama retains a slightly more positive personal image. By 49% to 45%, voters express favorable views of the president.
Some 45% express favorable views of Mr. Romney, comparied to 44% who regard him unfavorably. That reflects an improvement in Mr. Romney's standing during the course of the campaign's homestretch.
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The two candidates' near parity nationally is reflected in their different strengths on key issues. On creating jobs and improving the economy, Mr. Romney, a former Bain Capital executive, holds a 47% to 42% edge.
But on who's better prepared to lead the country, Mr. Obama holds a 46% to 42% edge.
Mr. Obama holds double-digit advantages on dealing with issues of concern to women and looking out for the middle class. Mr. Obama leads 48% to 42% on being a good commander-in-chief.
But Mr. Romney, who has emphasized his management credentials, leads 46% to 41% on being an effective leader who can get things done.
One late-developing concern that may be aiding Mr. Obama is the high marks he receives for handling the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Two-thirds of likely voters approve of the way he has dealt with the storm; just 16% disapprove.
—By CNBC's John Harwood