Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had edged in front of President Obama, as more voters say Romney has strong leadership qualities than say the same about the incumbent president, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released early Wednesday.
Romney leads Obama, 46 percent to 42 percent, just inside the survey's margin of error. Three percent of registered voters say they would vote for someone else, two percent say they would not vote, and seven percent were undecided.
On the question of whether Obama has strong leadership qualities, voters are split right down the middle: 49 percent say that he does, and 49 percent say he does not. But when asked if Romney has those same qualities, 55 percent say he does, while only 24 percent say he does not.
Obama does score better on caring "about the needs and problems of people like you": 54 percent say the president cares, and just 43 percent say he doesn't. Just 43 percent say Romney cares, compared to 35 percent who say he does not.
But Romney outpaces Obama on other key questions. Romney's favorable/unfavorable split is at 39 percent favorable/28 percent unfavorable, a healthy 11-point spread that is also in double-digits among independent voters.
As for Obama, his favorability rating has fallen significantly over the past five weeks: Today, a majority of voters have an unfavorable opinion of him, easily a new low: just 42 percent view him favorably, while 53 percent view him unfavorably. Three-in-five white voters have an unfavorable opinion of the president.
, Quinnipiac released data on the GOP primary, showing Romney moving to the front of the GOP pack -- and businessman Herman Cain
surging ahead of Texas Gov. Rick Perry
, into second place. Wednesday's release provides more context: Cain runs strongest among older voters, trailing Romney by just three points among Republican voters aged 55 and over.
Romney and Cain both outperform Perry among voters with a college degree: Romney increases his vote-share nine points among voters with a degree, from 19 percent to 28 percent. Cain's vote-percentage jumps from 13 percent to 23 percent among that same group. Perry actually drops from 14 percent among voters without a degree, to 13 percent among voters with a degree -- a reversal from polls conducted immediately after Perry's entrance in the race
and a sign that the past two months have hurt his standing among better-educated GOP voters.
Perry does keep pace with Obama in a general-election matchup, trailing him by a single point. But while Romney's favorability rating remains positive, Perry's has turned negative: In late August, 22 percent of all voters had a favorable opinion of Perry. Today, Perry's favorability rating remains at exactly 22 percent.
But in that time, the percentage of voters who have an unfavorable opinion of the Texas governor has jumped from 23 percent to 35 percent. Among independents, Perry's fav/unfav split is a horrible 19/37.
The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted Sept. 27-Oct. 3, surveying 2,118 registered voters, for a margin of error of +/- 2.1 percent. For the Republican primary, there were 927 Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters, for a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percent.