Americans by and large are still pessimistic about the economy, but their opinion of President Obama’s handling of the issue is improving, while they still view the President as someone who understands the concerns of normal citizens.
New numbers from ABC News and the Washington Post show President Obama with a seven point lead over former Massachusetts Gov. and likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney among registered voters nationally. The lead is mainly built on a large gender gap among women, with female voters breaking strongly toward to the President after the debate over contraception took hold in Washington and the national media during the first part of the year.
But the poll also shows how Americans’ view Obama’s competence on key economic issues, revealing that despite general fustration with the situation and his performance generally, they see him as sympathetic to their plight and equipped to address issues facing the middle class, numbers that will be important all the way to the election.
The President’s approval rating in the new ABC/WaPo poll is at a positive 50 - 45 split. But a large majority of Americans, 76 percent, still say that the economy is in a recession, and therefore a majority are dissatisfied with Obama’s job performance on the issue — 54 percent, with 44 approving. That’s an improvement from their March poll, when Obama was way down on his economic rating at 38 - 59.
Where the President does better is on the specific issues of economic performance, where Americans are not completely sold on the idea that a Romney administration would do much better. Romney holds a four point advantage on who would better handle the economy. But Obama leads over the former governor when Americans are asked who would be better at “Protecting the middle class,” “Creating jobs,” “Supporting small business,” and “Handling taxes,” usually an issue that Republicans do very well on. Romney leads on handling the federal budget deficit and energy policy.
On the electoral divide, the Post pointed to the gender gap as the chief reason for the Obama lead nationally, along with a bump from pulling together his base. From the paper:
Romney is up eight percentage points among male voters but trails by 19 among women. Among independent voters, one of the most watched groups in the electorate, the two men are closely paired, with 48 percent supporting Romney and 46 percent backing Obama..
In addition to his big lead among women — Obama won that demographic by 13 points in 2008 — the president is moving to secure other key elements of his winning coalition. As he did four years ago, he has overwhelming support from African Americans — 90 percent back his reelection effort — and he has a big lead among those ages 18 to 29. As ever, one issue will be how many of these young adults register to vote and turn out
The ABC/WaPo poll used 1,103 live telephone interviews with Americans conducted April 5th to 8th, along with a sub-sample of 875 registered voters from that group. The poll has a sampling error of 3.5 percent for adults and 4 percent for registered voters.
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.