A new poll out on Tuesday reveals that while President Obama still ekes out a slim edge in a head-to-head matchup against Republican rival Mitt Romney, openings remain – most notably on the economy and, surprisingly, China – for Romney to get ahead.
The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll gives Obama a 6-percentage-point lead over Romney with registered voters, 49 percent to 43 percent, which marks a doubling of his 3-point lead in June. But Obama remains vulnerable on the main issue that has dominated the campaign so far: the economy.
A majority of Americans, 53 percent, disapprove of the job Obama is doing on the economy, and Romney wins when it comes to ideas offered to improve the economy – 43 percent of registered voters say his ideas are better, with 36 percent saying Obama’s ideas are better. Almost exactly the same spread of voters believe Romney would better handle the economy than Obama (43 percent to 37 percent).
Those findings largely echo another poll by Gallup/USA Today released earlier on Tuesday.
But both candidates are seeing the percentage of voters who see them “very negatively” at an all-time high in this month’s poll, 32 percent for Obama and 24 percent for Romney.
It seems, too, that these numbers could continue to rise as campaign attacks escalate, as voters already say the things they’ve read and heard about the candidates are affecting their opinions of them. About the same percentage of registered voters say what they’ve seen, read, or heard about Romney and Obama has given them a less favorable opinion of the candidates, over 40 percent for each.
With pessimism high among Americans on the future of the economy, an opportunity for Romney to hammer home his advantage there remains. In the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, only 27 percent of Americans believe the economy will improve over the next 12 months, a decrease from 35 percent last month. And a majority of respondents say they’re less optimistic about the economy after what they’ve seen, read, and heard over the last few weeks.
Romney, too, could continue his hard-line stance on China and perhaps win over some voters. Though U.S.-China relations haven’t taken center stage this election season, a full 62 percent of Americans see China as an adversary, indicating Romney may be smart to keep hammering the country on currency manipulation.
However, Obama leads on just about every other issue aside from the economy, posting a double-digit advantage over Romney on handling foreign policy, and a large lead on dealing with health care, the situation in Afghanistan, and Medicare as well.
On taxes and immigration, however, voters remain more evenly split, giving Obama just a 2-percentage-point lead on both, well within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Romney may also see trouble in the stability of his base: Fifteen percent of voters who said they'd be voting for Romney in November admitted they were "just leaning toward" him, whereas 9 percent of Obama voters said the same. A large majority of voters for both candidates – over three-fourths for Obama, and 72 percent for Romney – said they'd definitely be voting for their candidate.
And just as in the earlier Gallup/USA Today poll, Obama retains what has traditionally been his most stable advantage: likeability. Sixty-seven percent of registered voters say they like Obama personally, and only 47 percent feel the same about Romney. The poll also substantiates what many see as Romney’s main weakness: his relatability, or lack thereof. Just 42 percent of voters say he has a background and set of values they can relate to, compared with 50 percent for the president.
The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted among 1,000 registered voters on July 18-22.