Poll: Obama vulnerable on economy, Romney weak on voter approval

Obama faces an electorate that sees the US economy in bleak terms, but he still outperforms Mitt Romney on voter favorability and in swing states, says a poll by the conservative group Resurgent Republic, released at the GOP convention.

President Obama (photo on left) reaches out to shake hands after speaking at a campaign event at Capital University on Aug. 21, in Columbus, Ohio, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (right) shakes hands with supporters after his speech during a rally at Guerdon Enterprises in Boise, Idaho, Feb. 17.

President Obama faces an electorate with a bleak assessment of the American economy and the nation’s standing overall, according to polling released Monday by the conservative group Resurgent Republic, yet voters are evenly divided on their approval of Mr. Obama, who still leads his GOP rival, Mitt Romney, in favorability and is ahead by a nose in swing states.

“If there’s one candidate who has a problem being outside the mainstream of American voters, it’s not Mitt Romney,” said Whit Ayres, the Republican pollster who ran the survey. “It’s Barack Obama.”

A majority of American voters (54 percent) say the country isn’t moving “forward,” Mr. Obama’s campaign slogan, and nearly 7 in 10 believe the nation is in a recession, according to the poll, given to reporters at a Resurgent Republic briefing at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

The US economy is not in a recession (defined as negative growth in quarterly gross domestic product, among other measures), and has not been since June 2009.

Nearly 6 in 10 Americans say the federal government’s financial situation is worse today than when Obama took office in 2009, with about 5 in 10 saying the government’s ability to solve problems and help the American economy is probably worse than in 2009. The only measure on which Americans say the situation is better today than three years ago is on safety from terrorists: 39 percent say the nation’s security standing has improved versus 20 percent who say it has declined.

Still, the poll included favorable signs for the president.

First, while Obama’s approval/disapproval rating is almost even at 48/49 percent, he still trumps Mr. Romney’s rating of 44 percent approval to 50 percent disapproval.

Second, Obama has a three-point edge among voters in swing states (48 percent to 45 percent). While a slim majority of likely voters disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy (51 percent disapproval versus 45 percent approval), Obama does better in battleground states, where he registers 49 percent approval and 48 percent disapproval on the economy.

Romney has a wider advantage with independent voters, leading 45 percent to Obama's 37 percent. Nationwide, Obama leads Romney 46 percent to 45 percent among likely voters, well within the margin of error.

The poll also gives Republicans hope of fending off traditional Democratic attacks on Medicare, a field many Democrats saw as promising after Romney selected Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin as his running mate. Representative Ryan, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, has championed changes to Medicare.

When offered representations of the Democratic and Republican messages on Medicare, 40 percent preferred the conservative argument and 41 percent preferred the liberal message. Independents narrowly favored the GOP formulation, 39 percent to 37 percent.

The poll sampled 1,000 likely voters, and almost half of those were from a dozen battleground states. Like many other national polls, the Resurgent Republic poll was made up of 37 Democrats and 30 percent Republicans. The 37 percent to 30 percent level represents the “best-case scenario for Democrats,” because it's based on 2008 turnout, not previous years when voter turnout was not so heavily Democratic.

The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points overall; in battleground states, the margin was 4.7.

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