President Obama edges Mitt Romney 49 percent to 46 percent among likely voters in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Tuesday. The poll is one of several released in recent days that show the race tightening.
Obama had a 5-point lead in the NBC/Journal poll two weeks ago. His current lead is within the poll's margin of error.
Heading into the first of three debates on Wednesday, 38 percent of registered voters surveyed said the debates would be “extremely” or “quite” important in deciding their presidential votes, while 62 percent view them as “just somewhat” or “not at all” important.
Romney continues to hold commanding leads among whites and men, while Obama enjoys the support of 71 percent of likely Hispanic voters.
Slim majorities of registered voters disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy, believe that the country is “off on the wrong track,” and say that the 96,000 jobs added to the economy in August are no cause for optimism. Nonetheless, 57 percent believe the economy is recovering.
On the question of who would do a better job handling the economy, voters split 43 percent for Romney, 42 percent for Obama.
Just after the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the earlier NBC/Journal poll showed Obama’s approval rating on foreign policy dropping below 50 percent for the first time since early 2011. Despite a recent Romney offensive on the subject, the president's foreign policy rating was stable at 49 percent in the new poll.
By a two-to-one margin, the poll found, registered voters had a negative reaction to Romney's secretly taped comments claiming that 47 percent of Americans want government handouts and see themselves as "victims."
The poll surveyed 1,000 registered voters, 300 of them via cell phone, from Sept. 26-30. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The margin of error for 832 likely voters was plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.