The race for the White House is tightening up, with President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney in a dead heat on the question of who could best fix the economy, a poll shows.
The incumbent and his all-but-certain challenger are tied at 47% apiece on handling the economy, according to the survey by ABC News and The Washington Post, although if the election were held today Obama would have a 49%-46% overall advantage.
The economy was by far the top concern among voters, with more than half of Americans saying it will be the deciding issue for them in November, pushing other concerns like health care and taxes down to single digits.
And while eight in 10 respondents rated the economy as negative, some 54% of Americans were more optimistic than anxious about it in the coming years.
Voters were split on issues such as job creation, with Obama nipping his rival 46%-45%, but the president has some deep advantages, too.
He fares better in terms of having the right character to be president (52%-39%) and the number of very enthusiastic Obama supporters is roughly double those for Romney, a multimillionaire former businessman and investor.
But Obama faces some troubling trends, notably his shrinking advantage among women.
He had enjoyed a 19-point lead among female voters last month at a time when a perceived “war on women” had dominated the political headlines but that advantage has shrunk to 51%-44%, about the average among women over the past year.
The poll also showed some similarities between Obama and an earlier president. In the critical measure of where voters stand financially now compared to when Obama took office in early 2009, 30% said they are worse off, while just 16% said they’re better off.
The figures are similar to those of president George HW Bush when he sought re-election and was defeated in 1992 amid economic doldrums.
Some 47% of respondents approved of Obama’s job performance while 49% disapprove, about the same as George W Bush (47%-50%) at the same time in 2004 when he was seeking and won re-election.
The poll reflects a narrowing in the race as it has become more clear that Romney will be the Republican Party’s nominee.
Nearly six months from the election, Romney has turned his full attention to a match-up against Obama, and all signs point to a fierce and predominantly negative campaign season ahead.
As Democrats intensify their attacks over Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, the public is divided over whether his history as a venture capitalist hurts or helps the presumptive Republican nominee.
The survey found 54% felt Romney’s role in buying and restructuring companies is “not a major factor” in their vote this year. Among those who do say it is a factor, voters are split: 21% say it is a “major reason to support” Romney, while 21% say it is a “major reason to oppose” him.
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