Buoyed by his strongest performance to-date among independents, Mitt Romney remains tied with President Obama in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Tuesday, as majorities disapprove of the way Obama is handling of the economy, as well as hot-button issues of health care and immigration.
The two candidates are in a dead heat among registered voters in the poll, with each at 47 percent. Six percent said they would vote for neither candidate or were undecided. The result is statistically unchanged from the previous poll, conducted in mid May.
Among independent voters, Romney holds a 14-point lead, 53 percent to 39 percent. That is his best showing among these voters in any ABC News/Washington Post poll, but it is blunted by Democrats' 9-point party-identification advantage in the poll.
Romney also holds a 7-point lead among men, but Obama leads among female voters by 8 points.
Obama supporters are slightly more enthusiastic about their candidate, though the enthusiasm gap has narrowed since May. Now, 51 percent of voters who back Obama say they are "very enthusiastic" about supporting him, the same as in May. But the percentage of Romney supporters who say they are "very enthusiastic" has ticked up, from 26 percent in May, to 38 percent in the new poll.
Three-quarters of Obama supporters say their vote is more for Obama, while 23 percent say their vote is more against Romney. Obama is also the focus for Romney voters: 59 percent say their vote is more against Obama, while only 37 percent say it is more for Romney.
Despite the overall tie, a strong majority, 58 percent, think Obama will win the election. Only 34 percent think Romney is more likely to win. Obama supporters are more confident in their preferred candidate's Novemeber prospects than Romney backers.
Among all Americans, 47 percent approve of how Obama is handling his job as president, while 49 percent disapprove. That is identical to his approval rating in the previous poll.
But a majority, 54 percent, disapprove of the way Obama is handling the economy, unchanged from May. Obama's approval ratings on health care and immigration are also unchanged from past measures, despite recent victories in the Supreme Court on those issues. Just 41 percent approve of how he is handling health care, the lowest of his presidency, while only 38 percent approve of his handling of immigration.
Romney holds a very slight, 5-point advantage over Obama on the question of which candidate Americans trust to do a better job on the economy, while the two candidates are neck-and-neck on other issues, including health care, immigration and taxes. By a 10-point margin, Americans trust Romney on dealing with the federal budget deficit, while Americans say they are more likely to trust Obama on making Supreme Court appointments.
Despite Obama's deficiencies on some issues, he remains ahead on more personal qualities. Half think Obama "better understands the economic problems people in this country are having," compared to 40 percent who think Romney better understands these problems. Sixty-three percent pick Obama and "the more friendly and likeable person," and Obama is also seen as the "stronger leader," "more likely to stand up for what he believes in," and having "presented a clearer plan for dealing with the economic situation" by pluralities of Americans.
More broadly, the recent Supreme Court ruling on the health care has delivered a slight bump to how Americans perceive the law. Now, 47 percent say they support the law, equal to the percentage who oppose it. In early April, a 53-percent majority opposed the law.
Americans are also split on the court ruling itself: 42 percent approve, while 44 percent disapprove.
The poll was conducted July 5-8, surveying 1,003 adults. The margin of error is plus-or-minus 4 percentage points. The poll included 855 registered voters.