President Obama's approval ratings have slipped, and he no longer leads Mitt Romney in a general-election matchup, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll released early Monday that also shows Americans are split on whether the U.S. economy has begun to recover and what impact Obama's policies have had.
The poll also shows a virtual tie between Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum among Republican-leaning voters, though Republicans think Romney has the best chance to beat Obama and is most likely to win the nomination.
A 50-percent plurality of Americans now disapprove of the job Obama is doing, while just 46 percent approve. That is down from a 50-percent approval rating in early February, and it represents Obama's lowest score on the question since the beginning of November.
Obama's approval rating on the economy has also fallen, from 44 percent last month to 38 percent now. Though Americans are split, 49 percent to 48 percent, on whether they feel optimistic or pessimistic about the state of the U.S. economy, only 31 percent believe that Obama's economic program is making the economy better. Thirty percent think it is making it worse, and 37 percent think it is having no real effect on the economy.
The slippage in Obama's approval rating coincides with gains made by his two chief GOP opponents over the past month. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, now leads Obama among registered voters, 49 percent to 47 percent, within the poll's margin of error. Last month, Obama led Romney, 51 percent to 46 percent. Santorum has also gained against Obama, trailing the president by just three points today, 49 percent to 46 percent, compared to an 11-point Obama lead in January.
But a majority of Americans, 54 percent, think Obama will win the election this year, while only 40 percent think the Republican candidate is more likely to win, a major reversal from recent months. In separate surveys in December and January, the GOP had a three-point lead on this question, and in a poll conducted in late September and early October, a wide majority thought the Republican candidate would win the general election.
The poll shows that Republicans are divided on which candidate should be their standard-bearer this fall. Romney leads Santorum among Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters, 33 percent to 29 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is third, at 14 percent, and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is at 12 percent. Eight percent say they prefer none of the listed candidates or specified another candidate, and four percent are undecided.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted last Wednesday to Saturday, surveying 1,003 adults, for a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.1 percentage points. There were 888 registered voters, for a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.3 percent. For the further subsample of Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters, there were 413 respondents; the GOP primary matchup carries a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.8 percentage points.