Declining confidence in the nation’s economic prospects appears to be the most powerful force influencing voters as the presidential election gears up, undercutting key areas of support for President Barack Obama and helping give his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, an advantage on the question of who would better handle the nation’s economic challenges, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.
Despite months of negative advertising from Obama and his Democratic allies seeking to further define Romney as out of touch with the middle class and representative of wealthy interests, the poll shows little evidence of any substantial nationwide shift in attitudes about Romney.
But with job growth tailing off since spring and the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, wondering aloud whether the labour market is “stuck in the mud,” the poll showed a significant shift in opinion about Obama’s handling of the economy, with 39 per cent now saying they approved and 55 per cent saying they disapproved.
In the Times/CBS poll in April, when the economy seemed to have momentum, 44 per cent approved and 48 per cent disapproved.
The new poll shows that the race remains essentially tied, notwithstanding all of the Washington chatter suggesting that Romney’s campaign has seemed off-kilter amid attacks on his tenure at Bain Capital and his unwillingness to release more of his tax returns. Forty-five per cent say they would vote for Romney if the election were held now and 43 per cent say they would vote for Obama.
When undecided voters who lean toward a particular candidate are included, Romney has 47 per cent to Obama’s 46 per cent.
Both results are within the poll’s margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
But it is the first time Romney has shown a numeric edge in the Times/CBS poll since he emerged from the primaries as the presumptive nominee. Obama had a three-point advantage in March. The two were each favoured by 46 per cent in April.
The poll, conducted between July 11 and 16 and including 982 registered voters, is reflective of the national mood, not the views of voters in the handful of swing states most likely to decide the outcome — and where most of the campaign advertising war is being waged.
Some polls suggest that the attacks are affecting perceptions in some battleground states. For instance, surveys last month by Quinnipiac University in Ohio and Pennsylvania — where millions of dollars in TV advertising is being spent — showed Obama with leads over Romney in both states.
Republicans have met Obama’s attacks with counter charges portraying him as a typical politician who has abandoned his former mantra of “hope and change.” And 58 per cent of those surveyed said that he had not delivered on his 2008 campaign pledge for change.
“Obama promised a lot of promises, and he failed at every one of them without exception,” Jerry Taylor of Yerington, Nevada, said in a follow-up interview to the poll. He voted for Obama four years ago but says he now plans to vote for Romney. “Words are cheap, but deeds are precious.”
The poll includes a drop in Obama’s favourability ratings, with 36 per cent saying they viewed him favourably and 48 per cent saying they did not. In April, 42 per cent expressed a favourable opinion of him and 45 per cent an unfavourable one.
But that change may have been affected by a reordering of this particular set of questions, which at this point in general election cycles are typically placed near the top of the survey. During the primary season, the questions about favourability were placed lower on the survey after queries about presidential job approval and other topics.
As the focus of the campaign trail shifts to speculation over Romney’s choice of a running mate, only a quarter of voters say that choice matters a lot to their decision for November.
Far more important, those surveyed said, are issues like the economy and jobs, healthcare, taxes, the deficit and national security — most of them areas in which Romney is roughly tied or has an advantage in the poll. Voters gave Obama an advantage when it came to foreign policy and social issues.
Culled from nytimes.com