Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, left, and President Obama… (Spencer Platt/Getty Images )
WASHINGTON --Reflecting recent strengthening of consumer confidence, a new poll shows more voters than a month ago expect the economy to improve over the coming year.
Nearly half of registered voters -- 45% -- said they expected the economy to get better in the next 12 months, according to results of a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Monday. That's up from 42% a month ago.
And despite the looming fiscal cliff, pessimism about the economy was remarkably low. Just 9% of voters said they expected the economy to worsen in the next year, down from 18% a month earlier.
The 9% figure was the lowest for any Wall Street Journal poll dating back to 1993, the publication said.
Democrats were much more optimistic about the direction of the economy than Republicans. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats -- 64% -- said they expected the economy to improve in the coming year, compared with only 30% of Republicans. Independents were much closer to the Republican mindset, with 32% saying they expected the economy to improve.
Overall, the poll put the presidential race at a dead heat, with President Obama and Mitt Romney each registering 47%. The tie was a big gain for Romney, who trailed Obama by 5 percentage points a month ago and three percentage points in late September.
Voters in the poll gave Romney the edge on the economy, with 46% saying he would do better on economic issues, compared to 40% for Obama. A month ago, the candidates were tied on that issue at 43% each.
Improvements in the housing market and the unemployment rate appear to offset worries about large tax hikes and government spending cuts set for January, the so-called fiscal cliff. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey jumped this month to its highest level in five years.
The unemployment rate unexpectedly dropped in September to 7.8% from 8.1% the previous month, leading to some of the renewed optimism in the Journal/NBC poll.
Asked if the new data were a reason for optimism, 47% said yes and 49% said no. Those figures are an improvement from a month earlier, when 42% of voters said that U.S. unemployment data were a reason for optimism and 52% said they weren't.
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