Moreover, Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), may be making headway in their argument about the threat of government overreach. Asked whether overregulation or a system that favors the wealthy is the bigger problem, 49 percent of voters say unfairness and 42 percent say overregulation. This is the first time in polls this year that under 50 percent of voters chose unfairness as the larger concern.
Similarly, the percentage of voters who say the government should pursue policies aimed at narrowing the gap between rich and poor has also dipped, although a slim majority, 52 percent, still support such efforts.
Obama continues to hold double-digit advantages when it comes to being the more friendly and likable of the two, and as the candidate more voters trust on social issues, women’s issues and terrorism. He maintains a big lead when it comes to empathizing with people facing economic problems. And he has a 10-point edge when it comes to handling “an unexpected major crisis,” the first time the question has been asked this year.
He and Romney are judged more evenly on some other key issues, including the deficit, health care and Medicare. Romney does not have significant leads in any of the areas tested in the poll, but he has a numerical edge on dealing with the federal budget deficit, 48 percent to 45 percent, among all voters.
On the economy — still the dominant issue in the campaign — voters render a split verdict, with the two tied at 47 percent.
The state of the economy and dissatisfaction over the country’s direction continue to be steep obstacles to the president’s reelection — but Obama benefits from recent improvements in voters’ moods, even if it is mainly Democrats who are feeling better about things.
More voters still give Obama negative ratings for his handling of the economy, but the number of approvers has edged up to 47 percent, its highest level in nearly two years.
The president’s overall approval rating among registered voters is now 49 percent positive, 49 percent negative. He tilts positive among all Americans, with 50 percent approving of his job performance and 46 percent disapproving.
Voters are also split on Obama’s handling of international affairs. This comes at a time when the administration has been on the defensive over the Sept. 11 attack in Libya that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
The president gets higher marks when it comes to voters’ assessments of his knowledge of world affairs: Sixty-four percent say he knows enough to be effective. At this stage, voters are less convinced about Romney: Fifty-one percent perceive that he has sufficient knowledge of international affairs to be an effective president; 43 percent say he does not.
There is more parity in voter expectations for what will happen with the economy after the election: Few voters are “very confident” that the economy will get back on track in the next year or two, regardless of who wins. Things have seesawed in a positive direction here for Romney: Fifty-one percent of voters are at least somewhat confident that things would quickly improve under his administration, up five points from before the conventions.
Peyton M. Craighill and Scott Clement contributed to this report.