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New polls show race between Obama, Romney still a dead heat

July 19, 2012|By Kathleen Hennessey
  • This combination of file photos shows the deadlocked candidates: Mitt Romney on the left and President Obama on the right.
This combination of file photos shows the deadlocked candidates: Mitt… (Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo )

WASHINGTON -- A pair of fresh polls is showing familiar results: The presidential race is essentially a dead heat.

A New York Times/CBS poll released Thursday shows Mitt Romney’s support at 47% of registered voters, with President Obama at 46%. A Fox News poll Obama at 45% and Romney at 41%. Both results are within the polls’ margins of error and show very little movement from surveys taken earlier in the summer.

As noted before on this blog, one of the most consistent things about the presidential showdown is its consistency. There hasn’t been a wide swing in favor of either candidate in spite of some pretty dramatic twists and turns in the news, including the Supreme Court’s healthcare ruling, a string of bad jobs reports and, most recently, loaded charges coming from both campaigns.

Still, the polls are picking up on plenty of anxiety about the economy and evidence that the president is likely to be bear the blame.

In both surveys, more people disapprove of Obama’s job performance than approve, but by a slim margin. When asked specifically on Obama's handling of the most voters’ top issue – the economy – the president fared worse. The New York Times/CBS poll, conducted July 11-16, puts his approval on the economy at 39%, down from 44% in April, although the poll shows that number bouncing back quite a bit.

Obama also appears to have taken a hit on foreign policy. Voters in the New York Times/CBS poll were evenly split on Obama’s approval on foreign affairs, showing a drop in approval in an area where the president has enjoyed pretty strong support. The poll found voters essentially split on the question of who would better handle national security and terrorism.

More worrisome for the Obama campaign has to be numbers on economic issues. Romney bested Obama when it came to reducing the deficit and, crucially, handling the economy and unemployment. Two-thirds of those surveys said the country is headed in the wrong direction and two-thirds said Obama’s policies had contributed in some way to the country's economic downturn.

Still, Democrats were pointing to what they saw as good news. Obama’s tax policy positions continue to have support. The Fox poll, conducted July 15-17, found a majority, 52%, of voters think that high-income earners should pay more in taxes, while 42% oppose. (When the question was phrased as expressing support for tax increases, support dropped to 48%.) And in the New York Times/CBS poll, Obama bested Romney when it came to helping the middle class.

That’s been a core part of Obama’s message and it seems to be penetrating. The problem for the Obama campaign, at least from these surveys, is that it doesn’t yet appear to be enough to win support.

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