A new national poll from Pew shows President Obama leading former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by 4 points, 49 percent to 45 percent, within a large sample of registered voters. But voters are basically split on how they rate the two candidates on the issues that Pew finds most important to voters: getting the economy moving again and creating jobs.
Despite Romney’s favorability being historically low for a candidate wrapping up his party’s nomination, the Pew data shows that the economy is already the singular focus of general election voters, and President Obama’s relative weakness on the issue may cause Americans to strongly consider Romney.
A month ago, a national poll from Pew showed a 12-point lead for Obama, as the Republican primary process was still under way. But Romney’s numbers have improved as he’s moved toward securing the nomination. “As the GOP primary winds down, the party base is consolidating behind Mitt Romney,” Pew wrote in its analysis. “Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Republican and Republican-leaning voters now say that the party will unite solidly behind Romney as the nominee, up from 57% in February. This matches the 64% who said the party would unite behind McCain at a comparable point four years ago.”
Pew’s numbers show that concern over the economy will dominate the race. Among those who say “the economy” is their most important issue, Obama leads by 4 points. But among voters who say “jobs” are their chief concern (there is overlapping between the two groups) Romney bests Obama by a single point.
“The gender gap remains comparable to those in previous surveys during the current
campaign, as well as past election cycles,” Pew wrote. “Women favor Obama by a 53% to 40% margin; among men voters, 50% favor Romney, while 44% back Obama. Obama has lost ground among both men and women at about the same rate over the past month.”
The gender gap persists, but the concern for the Obama camp in recent polling is independent voters. Overall, Romney leads by 6 points among independents. Among just white independents, that gap grows to a 16-point Romney lead. And among independent women, Romney is up by 2 points.
The electoral results among unaffiliated voters from Pew seem to confirm another poll from Reuters released on Monday, which showed Obama’s approval rating with independent voters at only 37 percent, while 57 percent disapproved of his job performance.
“Independents are clearly on the fence with respect to the economy,” Michael Dimock, association director of research at Pew told TPM in an email. “On the one hand, given that we’re approaching 4 years of tough economic times under Obama’s leadership, the fact that he’s breaking even on this issue is not that bad (see Bush Sr., Carter as counter-examples). But on the other hand, given that he won in 2008 with fairly convincing support from independent voters who are now split, he has to find a way to rebuild that support in tough times.”
Kyle is the Editor of TPM Media’s PollTracker. He graduated from Beloit College (WI) and began working in politics before getting an M.A. in magazine journalism from New York University, where he interned at TPM and the website of The New Yorker.