Majorities of Americans say neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney has a clear plan to fix the nation’s problems, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday, a signal that neither candidate has made a successful case to be president in 2013.
And, the problems for both candidates go deeper than that. Even as both outline their vision on the campaign trail, many Americans will be leery of trusting them: Six in 10 say Obama and Romney each change their positions on issues for political reasons.
The results, which are part of a broader look by Gallup at the personal attributes of Romney and Obama, are strikingly similar to a contemporaneous Washington Post-ABC News poll where the public gave negative reviews to Obama and Romney’s plans for the nation’s No. 1 problem: the economy.
The doubtful sentiment regarding the plan either man possesses (or doesn’t) to lead the nation forward parallels a broader dissatisfaction. Less than half of the public says they will be pleased by any ruling the Supreme Court hands down on health care Thursday, and more than eight in 10 say the economy is in bad shape.
One silver lining comes through in the new Gallup poll: Both Obama and Romney are widely liked. Eighty-one percent say Obama is likable, 64 percent say the same of Romney and half of the public agrees that BOTH are likable. The results contrast sharply with so-called favorability ratings, where both candidates rate much lower.
Here’s a look at Gallup’s polling on the full set of personal traits of the two nominees:
The survey mirrors other polls that show Obama with significant advantages over Romney on most personal attributes. In addition to being seen as more likable, Obama has a 12-point edge on empathy, 10 points on honesty and eight points on sharing “your values.” Obama held double digit leads over Romney on "better personal character" and being more likely to "stand up for what he believes in" in a May Washington Post-ABC News poll. (That survey used different head-to-head question wording than Gallup.)
Romney's only personal advantage in the Gallup poll is an eight-point lead on his ability to “manage government effectively”. A 53 percent majority say Romney has this attribute — call it the CEO ethos — while 45 percent say Obama has it. This also mirrors a Post-ABC poll from February where 48 percent said Romney's business experience was a major reason to vote for him, while just 12 percent said it was a negative factor.
Do all these attribute ratings matter? For one, Obama’s reservoir of likability — even as his approval ratings are mired at or below 50 percent — could act as a bulwark against strong personal attacks on the campaign trail. And Romney's emerging image as an effective manager will help him make the case that he is more competent to fix the ailing economy, an issue where voters currently split right down the middle.
The Gallup poll was conducted June 7-10 among 1,004 adults. The margin of error for the full results is plus or minus four percentage points.
Polling manager Peyton Craighill contributed to this report.