BY THOM RIEHLE, YOUGOV POLLING
It is easy to see why the campaign of likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney hopes all the election talk devolves into economy complaining by Election Day. It will be a lot of work for Romney to get there. Step One is Romney taking a clear lead over President Obama as the candidate likely to turn the economy around, but in our current Economist/YouGov poll (Week of June 9, 2012), only 26% say the economy will get better if Romney is elected (compared to 30% if Obama is reelected). Step Two is Romney causing a sizeable pool of Americans to like him. That pool is pretty shallow right now. In a month of Economist/YouGov polls pooled for greater sample size and sub-analysis (polls conducted May 19−June 11, with a combined sample of 4,000 adults nationwide), just 10% like Romney a lot, just 22% think he says what he believes.
While the Romney campaign would like nothing more than to make President Obama and his record the entire focus of the presidential race, the Obama campaign will surely make every effort to shift the focus of the race to Romney himself. Pooled results from the last four Economist/YouGov surveys shed much light on why the Obama team thinks this a good strategy. Stated simply, Americans find various things to admire in Romney’s resume and personality, but on the whole, they have an ambivalent (even negative) view of the man.
Americans like Romney’s business background. More of them would use the word “experienced” to describe Romney than would use it to describe President Obama. Many Americans would also use favorable qualities such as “intelligent”, “patriotic”, and “religious” to describe Romney.
But consider the following statistics: only 10% of Americans say they like Romney “a lot.” An additional 33% say they like him “somewhat” and 37% say they dislike him. Even more impressively, when asked about Romney’s sincerity, only 22% say that he “say what he believes” while 59% say that he “says what he thinks people want to hear.” The Romney campaign can take some solace in the fact that a significant fraction of Americans (around one in five) have not yet developed views about Romney on these matters.
Even Republicans, as it turns out, do not think particularly highly of their presidential nominee. Only 22% of them say they like Romney “a lot”; 59% say they like Romney “somewhat.” 43% of Republicans say that Romney “says what he believes”, while 19% say that he “says what people wants to hear.” To be sure, Romney’s numbers among Republicans have improved substantially since the primary season. Once Romney’s nomination became a near-certainty, a significant percentage of Republican voters jumped on the proverbial Romney bandwagon, changing their opinions of the man who had been chosen to lead their team. Still, there remains a large percentage of hold-outs — Republicans who maintain a deep suspicion of Romney even as they are resigned to support him in the fall.
In the meantime, as the candidates give competing remarks in Ohio on the economy, this fall’s presidential campaign will focus on the country’s most important issue — the state of the economy. More than eight in ten registered voters claim a candidate’s position on economic issues will be most or very important in their vote choice, more than say that about social issues or foreign policy issues.
However, the latest Economist/YouGov Poll finds the economy to be an issue on which both candidates have weaknesses.
Americans are somewhat more likely to expect a worsening economy rather than an improving one no matter which candidate wins in November. 39% think the economy will get worse if the President is re-elected (30% think it will improve), 33% expect a worsening economy with a President Romney (only 26% think it will get better).
Those earning less than $40,000 a year and those earning more than $100,000 are more likely to think the economy will worsen in an Obama second term than to think it will improve. But while the former group is even more likely to predict a worsening economy if Romney wins, those with incomes over $100,000 are much more closely divided on the effect of a Romney Presidency. 39% of those with incomes over $100,000 say the economy will improve during a Romney presidency, while 34% say it will get worse.
Recent economic news has not been good: two weeks ago, just 30% thought the economy was worsening. That percentage rose to 39% after the most recent jobs report. Again this week, 39% say the economy is getting worse.
Just 36% approve of how the President is currently handling the economy, about the same as that rating has been for a while. But the President has some advantages over Romney: while majorities describe both men as personally wealthy (84% say this about the President, 93% about Romney), more say Obama cares about people like themselves and about the middle class than say that about Romney, who is much more likely to be thought of as someone who cares about the wealthy.