Poll shows White House race still tight

NECK-AND-NECK::A new AP-GfK poll has 47% of registered voters backing Obama, with 46% backing Romney, with the economy still rated as by far the No. 1 issue

AP, WASHINGTON

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 - Page 7

Republican US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s selection of US Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate has not altered the race against US President Barack Obama, and the campaign remains very close, with less than three months to go, a new Associated Press (AP)-GfK poll shows.

Overall, 47 percent of registered voters said they planned to back Obama and US Vice President Joe Biden in November, while 46 percent favored Romney and Ryan. That is a statistical tie not much changed from an AP-GfK survey in June, when the split was 47 percent for the president to 44 percent for Romney. At the same time, there is a far wider gap when people were asked who they thought would win. Fifty-eight percent of adults said they expected Obama to be re-elected, while just 32 percent said they thought he would be voted out of office. Obama’s approval rating held steady at about an even split, with 49 percent saying they approve of the way he is handling his job and another 49 percent saying they disapprove.

The president remains more positively viewed than Romney and continues to be seen as more empathetic. Fifty-three percent of adults hold a “favorable” opinion of the president, compared with just 44 percent who view Romney favorably.

Obama also held a commanding lead among voters as the candidate who better “understands the problems of people like you,” 51 percent to 36 percent for Romney.

Fifty percent see him as a stronger leader than Romney; 41 percent see Romney as stronger.

After just over a week on the campaign trail, Ryan has a 38 percent favorable rating among adults, while 34 percent see him unfavorably. Among registered voters, his numbers are slightly better — 40 percent favorable to 34 percent unfavorable. Ryan remains unknown to about a quarter of voters.

Romney put the 42-year-old conservative chairman of the US House of Representatives Budget Committee on the ticket on Aug. 11. The AP-GfK poll was conducted from Thursday to Monday.

Romney and Ryan will be crowned as the Republican presidential and vice presidential nominees next week at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. The Democrats hold their convention the following week in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The closely locked contest reflects deep partisan divisions across the country.

Among true independents, those who say they do not lean toward either party, the share of undecided voters is declining, with each candidate picking up new support at about the same pace.

However, Romney maintains an advantage with the group, with the backing of 41 percent of independents to Obama’s 30 percent. Twenty-one percent still say they support neither candidate.

Among all voters, 23 percent are undecided or say they have not yet committed to their candidate.

The frail economy, with the unemployment rate hovering at 8.3 percent more than three years after the deep recession officially ended, remains the No. 1 issue.

Nine in 10 call it important for them and half of voters say it is “extremely important,” outpacing all other issues tested by at least 10 percentage points.

Two-thirds in the poll described the economy as poor.