President Obama does pushups during basketball shooting drills at the… (Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty…)
Reporting from Washington — President Obama may be faring well against presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the polls, and his personal approval ratings remain strong, but there’s a persistent crack in his armor. The economy continues to be the top concern among voters, and their skepticism of the president on economic matters remains high despite the overall (albeit sluggish) upturn in the recovery.
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll puts Obama’s approval rating at 50%, with the highest number of those who said they are strong supporters, 30%, since January 2011. Disapproval remains high at 45%, driven by the 35% of Americans who strongly opposed the president. But it’s still a four-point increase in support and a five-point drop in detractors from March’s poll numbers.
When the economy comes into play, though, the Obama edge evaporates. The number of Americans who strongly disapprove of his handling of the economy, 42%, nearly outnumbers those with any degree of support for him, 44%.
Though only 21% of Americans place the blame primarily on Obama for the recent rise in oil and gas prices, with more voters blaming other oil-producing countries or domestic oil companies, 62% still disapprove of Obama’s handling of rising gas prices.
The lack of fault placed on Obama, particularly in comparison to the blame directed at President George W. Bush during price spikes in 2004 and 2005, can be chalked up to the perception of other parties involved, but the percentage of Americans who see gas prices as a major burden also has dropped. During last year’s gas price increases, 71% saw it as a hardship. Currently, that number is down to 62%.
More troubling for Obama is that 76% of those polled still believe the U.S. is in a recession. And though the numbers have slowly moved in Obama’s favor over the last six months, 64% still think the country is headed in the wrong direction.
Given those findings, it’s not surprising that 46% see Obama’s handling of the economy as a major reason to oppose his reelection – with only 32% highlighting it as a major reason to support him.
Yet Obama still holds a 51% to 43% lead over Romney in a presumptive presidential race, a five-point increase in favor of the president since March. And that lead remains even though 47% of those polled said they trusted Romney to do a better job on the economy, four points more than Obama.
Obama’s edge is that he outpolls Romney in most of the other categories. On protecting the middle class, 49% see Obama as the better candidate, compared to 39% for Romney. There’s a three-point spread in favor of Obama in regard to creating jobs, a 17-point margin in the president’s favor on foreign policy, and a 10-point advantage to Obama on healthcare policy.
There’s also a gender gap strongly in favor of Obama: On addressing women’s issues, 53% see the president as the better candidate, compared to 34% for Romney.
The poll, conducted from Thursday through Sunday, was conducted through telephone surveys with a national random sample of 1,103 adults. The margin of error in the overall results is plus or minus 3.5 points. For the remainder of the results, click here.