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Economic jitters keep Obama on political hot seat

at 02:18 PM ET, 06/21/2012

New polls from the Pew Research Center and the Associated Press catalog the rising economic jitters that threaten President Obama’s bid for re-election. The Pew data also allow a deep-dive into key factors that underlie voter turnout — that all-important issue of who will actually vote on Nov. 6.

The horserace between President Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is similar in the two surveys with the president up four in Pew and three in AP among registered voters. Neither margin is considered statistically significant, and the results seem to cement idea that yesterday’s Bloomberg poll showing Obama up 13 was an outlier.

The polls do differ a bit on how the economy is playing out in the race. Pew finds Romney leading by eight points on who would do the better job improving economic conditions while the AP-GfK poll shows 47 percent of people favoring Romney to handle the economy while 44 percent choose Obama.

One standout data point from the Pew poll is a stark reminder of the country’s apparent political impasse. Asked whether the federal government should prioritize deficit reduction or spend money to spur economic growth, Democrats and Republicans are mirror opposites of one another, and independent voters split exactly evenly.

A few more nuggets from the Pew poll follow after the jump.

* Overall interest levels are down from 2008, although still above the June engagement in the four previous presidential contests

* Republicans are following the election in higher numbers than are Democrats, are more apt to say they’ve thought about the election and more likely to say its outcome really matters.

* Democrats counter with greater satisfaction with the candidate options, paralleling a big advantage for Obama in strength of support. The proportion of Obama’s backers who are strongly behind his candidacy is nearly double Romney’s. This matches the May Post-ABC showing a huge enthusiasm gap for Obama over Romney.

* Obama’s advantage of strength of support is in-line with what it was over McCain at this stage four years ago. In Pew data back to 1988, the candidate with the more fervent support at the end of the campaign ended up on top (In 2000, George W. Bush and Al Gore tied on this score, and in the popular vote.)

* Obama continues to have big advantages on personal traits: +31 on connecting with ordinary Americans, +19 on willing to take a unpopular stand and +17 on willing to work with other party. He also enjoys a double digit lead when it comes to honesty, crisis judgment and consistency. Romney leads on none of the eight items tested.

* In another clear sign that the president’s re-election is — so far — far more about him than it is his opponent, nearly six in 10 Romney supporters say their choice in the election is primarily against Obama rather than for the former Massachusetts governor. (These numbers were in earlier Pew polling, but were not broken out in detail.)

* Returning to the basic divide on federal action, Obama and Romney supporters are at loggerheads over government priorities. Fully 70 percent of those voters who say they are certain to back Romney say reducing the budget deficit is the higher priority. Nearly as many ardent Obama supporters say stimulus spending is a better approach. “Swing voters” — those who are currently undecided or say they could change their mind before November — tilt 53 to 41 percent in favor of reducing the deficit.

The Pew survey was conducted June 7-17 among 2,013 adults, with a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points. Among registered voters, the margin of error is 2.9 points. The AP-GfK poll was conducted June 14-18 among 1,007 adults, with a four point margin of error overall, 4.2 points among registered voters. 

 
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