Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, leave the Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro,… (Jewel Samad / AFP/Getty…)
WASHINGTON -- As Republicans gathering in Tampa, Fla., deal with Tropical Storm Isaac, a new poll showed the economy is the eye of the political storm for voters this fall.
The Washington Post/ABC News poll released Monday showed that 72% of registered voters surveyed said President Obama's handling of the economy would be a major factor in their vote this November.
The issue easily topped other flash points in the race between Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
Exactly half of registered voters in the poll said the plan by Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, to restructure Medicare would be a major factor in their choice. Likewise for the difference between Democrats and Republicans on women's issues, highlighted by recent controversial comments about rape by Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.).
Just 20% of respondents said Romney's position on releasing his tax returns would be a major factor. Democrats have pushed Romney to release more than two years of his returns.
The poll, conducted Wednesday through Sunday, indicated that the race was essentially deadlocked among registered voters, with 47% saying they preferred Romney and 46% Obama, heading into this week's Republican convention.
Poll respondents gave Romney a small edge over Obama on repairing the economy. Asked who they trusted to do a better job handling the economy, 46% said Romney and 44% said Obama.
Overall, 54% of those surveyed said they disapproved of Obama's handling of the economy, while 44% said they approved.
But when asked, regardless of who they supported, which candidate better understood the economic problems faced by Americans, Obama came out well ahead, 49% to 37%.
And a majority of respondents sided with Obama's view on a key economic issue -- 56% said unfairness in the economic system that favors the wealthy was the bigger problem in the country, compared with over-regulation of the free market that interferes with growth and prosperity. About a third of respondents -- 34% -- took the opposite view, which has been pushed by Romney and the Republicans.
The poll indicated widespread dissatisfaction with the state of the economy, with 45% describing it as poor and 40% saying it was "not so good."
But a majority of those surveyed -- 52% -- blamed former President George W. Bush for the current economic situation. Obama was blamed by 34%.
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