The top-line results in the new Washington Post-ABC News poll are largely in line with expectations: President Obama’s approval rating stands at 47%, and he leads Mitt Romney by four points among all Americans (49% to 45%) and three points among registered voters (49% to 46%). Obama has an even larger edge when it comes to voter enthusiasm.
But the poll is more interesting when it digs a little deeper, especially into economic attitudes.
We see, for example, that only a small number of Americans have positive attitudes about the current state of the economy (17%), but that’s still the best number we’ve seen in over four years.
As for the election, among registered voters, Obama and Romney are tied when it comes to which candidates Americans trust to “handle the economy,” while the president has a slight edge on creating jobs. But notice how the results change when the poll asks more specific questions about the candidates’ personal attributes. I put together this chart using the Post-ABC data:
It’s not just about personalities: when asked which of the two “better understands the economic problems people in this country are having,” Obama has an eight-point edge. When the questions turn to personal character and standing up for key beliefs, the president’s advantage reaches double digits. These factors will certainly matter come November.
But just as interesting was this question: “What do you think is the bigger problem in this country – unfairness in the economic system that favors the wealthy, or over-regulation of the free market that interferes with growth and prosperity?” The results weren’t close: 56% said unfairness is the bigger problem, while 34% pointed to over regulation.
That’s not what Romney and the GOP want to hear – Obama’s vision for what ails the economy has a 22-point edge over the Republican vision, and that gap is growing, not shrinking.
Romney can take some solace in the fact that the race for the White House is very competitive, but it’s not a good sign that American voters continue to reject his larger worldview.