A recent New York Times/CBS News poll released Wednesday shows some rather obvious sentiments among registered voters as well as reasons to worry for both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Conducted between April 13 through 17, the poll gathered the opinions of 852 registered voters and its findings reveal the overall weariness of the American electorate over sluggish economic growth, along with their pessimism for the future.
Now guaranteed to win his party’s nomination, Mitt Romney does indeed have an opening to defeat President Barack Obama. However, data suggests heavy weaknesses for the primary-bruised Romney, which Obama can play to his advantage, similar to what George W. Bush did to Senator John Kerry in 2004. What we gather from this poll may in fact set the overall tone for what will be a close and brutal campaign.
Some of the poll’s findings are to be expected. The economy is the number one issue for voters, gas prices are hitting them quite hard, housing market policy is a disappointment, and 61% of voters view the country as being on the wrong track. In regards to steering economic policy, 55% voters are more confident in Romney’s abilities compared to 51% who feel the same way for Obama. The president’s overall approval rating now stands at 48% while his disapproval is somewhat lower at 42%. Romney still has an advantage if he and his party choose to paint Obama as another Jimmy Carter with a stagnant economy. Although, other indications show that Romney has a weakness in his personal believability, which may compromise his ability to get such a message across to voters.
Among likely registered voters, Romney only has a favorability rating of 29%, whereas 34% hold unfavorable views of the former-moderate-Massachusetts governor. With both candidates in mind, 46% of voters feel Obama “says what he believes” compared to Romney’s 29%. Things get more cynical whereas 51% of voters believe Obama “says what people want to hear” compared to 62% who feel the same way about Romney (ouch!). This could be bad news for either candidate based on how you spin it; however, both of these men seem to have issues when it comes to confronting the cynical attitude in America’s political discourse.
A startling 39% of voters perceive themselves as falling behind financially while 43% say they are staying even in current economic circumstances. Around 47% believe Obama has not brought the change to Washington, D.C., he promised back in 2008 and the same amount of voters feel the next generation of Americans will fare worse in the years ahead. One could think Obama is at a disadvantage here, but other bits of information may suggest otherwise.
When asked about the best ways to improve the economy, 37% of voters say lowering taxes and cutting spending is the way to go (suggesting that a large swath of Americans see a causal relationship between debt and economic growth). Surprisingly enough, 56% of voters chose spending more and raising taxes as the best means to improve the economy (maybe there are more Keynesians out there than I thought). On the housing market and the government’s involvement in it, 26% say the government is involved at just the right level while 16% say the government should do less and 52% say the government should do more. Among the voting participants, 58% feel that they are paying the right amount while 57% feel that upper income earners are not paying their fair share. Obama’s take on tax fairness is resonating with voters in this regard and it may be advantageous to keep following that message moving forward.
What’s more, approval for Congress stands at a meager 13% with a dismal 77% of likely voters disapproving of it. Time will tell if that anger is directed more towards the Tea Party faction in the House of Representatives or Senate Democrats. One thing is certain though, if Obama wins reelection it will be in large part due to his distancing himself from the “do-nothing” (and sometimes “know-nothing”) Congress.
The data from the recent New York Times/CBS News poll can be read in a variety of different ways depending on whom you support to win the general election this November. Both Obama and Romney have reasons to worry along with things to be happy about. Obama may lead with female voters, but Romney leads with male voters; and there is dead even split among independents with Obama and Romney each having 43% of their support. With all of that in mind, we may be in for one of the closest and ugliest campaigns in U.S. history.