, WASHINGTON, Jul 19 – Mitt Romney has drawn even with President Barack Obama in the White House race, with likely voters favouring the Republican challenger to fix the US economy, a poll showed on Thursday.
The New York Times/CBS News poll showed little recent shift in attitudes toward Romney despite negative advertising by Obama’s re-election campaign, which seeks to portray Romney as a wealthy elite who is out of touch with everyday Americans, and extensive criticism of his business record.
Although the results were within the margin of error, Thursday’s poll marked the first time Romney showed a numerical edge, with 45 percent of respondents saying they would vote for him if the elections were held now, compared with 43 percent for Obama, The New York Times said.
The study comes during a period of slackening US job growth, with Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke seeing “frustratingly slow” drops in the unemployment rate, which has hovered above eight percent for over three years.
Amid the economic uncertainty, the poll showed a key shift in respondents’ attitudes toward Obama’s ability to improve the economy, with 39 percent saying they approve of his handling of the economy and 55 percent saying they disapproved.
In a Times/CBS poll in April, when economic prospects appeared brighter, that approval rating was 44-48 percent.
With the economy clearly the number one issue for US voters in November’s election, the trends in the country’s jobs climate could well dictate the fate of the incumbent, regardless of events such as the Supreme Court ruling that upheld the health care law.
But voters are turning on Obama in a key measure, with just 36 percent of Americans viewing him favourably, compared with 48 percent who said they do not. In April, that breakdown was 42-45 percent.
There were some hopeful signs for the incumbent, however. Respondents overwhelmingly saw Obama as the advocate for the middle class, and while 46 percent said his policies favour the middle class and poor, only 13 percent said Romney’s policies would do so.
And while over half of Obama’s supporters said they strongly supported him, fewer than a third of Romney’s supporters said the same about the Republican challenger.
An NPR poll released overnight showed that if the election were held now, Obama would edge Romney 47-45 percent, although that figure is within the margin of error.
It also showed a dead heat, 46-46 percent, in 12 battleground states, including Ohio, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.