Two years ago, just after the midterm elections that returned the GOP to the majority in the House, Americans were divided on the economy — 45 percent trusted Republicans and 44 percent favored Obama. Now, the president has an edge of 54 percent to 36 percent on what remains voters’ top issue.
The president’s advantage over congressional Republicans swells to 26 percentage points on advancing the interests of the middle class.
But on two specific issues at the core of the debate in Washington — taxes and budget deficits — Obama and the Republicans in Congress are far more evenly matched. On handling the federal budget deficit, 45 percent of Americans trust Obama, compared with 41 percent for congressional Republicans. The balance is similar on handling taxes: 46 percent for Obama and 42 percent for Republicans.
On taxes, support breaks down along income levels. Among Americans with household incomes below $50,000, Obama leads Republicans 55 percent to 33 percent. But among those who bring in $50,000 or more, Republicans lead on taxes, 51 percent to 38 percent. Obama wants to increase taxes on the top 2 percent of income earners while continuing the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the other 98 percent of Americans.
Majorities of Americans are at least somewhat concerned that a failure to reach an agreement could hurt the national economy, as well as their personal finances.
Nearly nine in 10 Americans are at least somewhat concerned about what may happen to the national economy, including 58 percent who say they are “very concerned.” Fewer are as intensely worried about the potential effect on their own finances. Middle-income Americans are estimated to be on the hook for an additional $2,000 in taxes next year if a deal is not reached.
Ratings of Obama’s overall job performance continue to peak among women and non-whites, but he is also at his strongest position in years among seniors, an important part of Romney’s coalition. Just over half of those 65 or older now approve of the president’s job performance, marking the first time the number has topped 50 percent since July 2009, during Obama’s first summer in office.
The telephone poll was conducted Thursday through Sunday among a random national sample of 1,002 adults. Results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Peyton M. Craighill and Scott Clement contributed to this report.