WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Registered voters are more likely to say Mitt Romney, if elected president, would do a very good or good job of handling the economy than they are to say President Obama would, if re-elected -- 61% vs. 52%. While the two men earn about equal "very good" ratings, 22% of voters think Obama would do a "very poor" job, more than twice as many as say the same about Romney (10%).
Voters were asked to rate Obama and Romney separately on the economy in the May 1-2 USA Today/Gallup poll. However, when forced to choose between the two in a follow-up question, voters were split about evenly, with 47% saying Romney and 45% Obama.
Republicans More Negative About Obama Than Democrats Are About Romney
Voters' greater likelihood to say Obama would do a "very poor" job with the economy comes partly from the large percentage of Republicans who say this -- 46%. This compares with a much smaller 20% of Democrats who say the same about Romney. This could partly reflect the fact that Obama has been in office for more than three years in troubled economic times, while Romney has no track record on the economy at the national level. In total, 81% of Republicans say Obama would do a very poor or poor job of handling the economy, while 58% of Democrats give Romney the same ratings.
Independents also give Romney much better ratings than Obama on handling the economy. Twenty-one percent of independents believe Obama would do a very poor job with the economy over the next four years, while 7% say the same about Romney. They are more likely to say Romney than Obama would do a very good or good job -- 64% vs. 52%.
Independents' views on the forced-choice question are similar, with 50% saying Romney would do a better job and 40% saying Obama would. Democrats and Republicans overwhelmingly choose their respective party's candidate as better able to manage the economy -- at almost identically high levels.
Americans identify the economy as the most important problem facing the country, so voters' perceptions of which presidential candidate will do a better job of handling it will play a pivotal role in the outcome of the election.
Weak economic growth and sustained high unemployment are challenges for President Obama, and, as is the case for any challenger, present an opportunity for Romney. At this point, Romney has an edge as the candidate voters say would be better able to handle the economy, which no doubt partially reflects Obama's status as incumbent and Romney's as challenger.
Interestingly, in April, asking a slightly different question, Gallup found more Americans saying they had confidence in Obama to do or recommend the right thing for the economy than said this about Romney. The differing results on the new question could reflect that recent economic news has not been as positive as it was earlier this year, or could be tied to Romney's having clinched the GOP nomination since the previous poll was conducted.
However, if economic conditions improve in the months ahead, voters -- including the important group of independents -- could begin to look more favorably on the president's handling of the economy.
Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 1-2, 2012, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 872 registered voters, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of registered voters, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.