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Fox News Poll: Obama Approval Drops, Romney Tops GOP Preference

The president’s job rating has returned to pre-bin Laden raid levels, according to a Fox News poll released Wednesday.  Currently 48 percent of American voters approve of the job Barack Obama is doing and 43 percent disapprove.  Last month, after the death of Usama bin Laden, it was much more positive:  55 approved and 41 percent disapproved (May 2011). Prior to the raid the president’s rating was split evenly 47-47 (April 2011). 

The poll finds similar mixed views on the president’s re-election.  Nearly half of voters -- 49 percent -- would vote for someone else rather than re-elect President Obama if the 2012 election were held today.  Forty-four percent would vote to give him a second term.  These results are essentially unchanged from January, the last time this question was asked, when 51 percent said someone else, and 42 percent said re-elect Obama.

Among the president’s party faithful, 82 percent would re-elect him.  That’s about the same as the 79 percent of Democrats who said so in January, though down a bit from 87 percent at the beginning of Obama’s term (April 2009). 

Click here for full poll report. 

The number of Democrats who would “definitely” re-elect Obama stands at 55 percent.  That’s the highest since early in his term, when 69 percent said they would definitely re-elect (April 2009). 

Republicans are more united in their opposition to the president.  Fully 92 percent of Republicans would vote for someone else, including 72 percent who would “definitely” vote for Obama’s opponent.

For independents, 33 percent would vote to re-elect Obama, down from a high of 43 percent in April 2009.  Just over half of independents -- 52 percent -- would vote for someone else, which is almost twice as many as the 28 percent who felt that way near the start of Obama’s term. 

In the 2008 election, independents were essential to Obama’s victory -- backing him 52 percent to Republican John McCain’s 44 percent (Fox News exit poll).

Race for the GOP Nomination

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney is currently the preferred nominee among a long list of potential GOP candidates, and he is also seen as qualified to be president by the largest number of voters. 

Among Republican primary voters, 23 percent would like to see Romney as the nominee.  He is followed by New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at13 percent and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at 12 percent.  Businessman Herman Cain and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich both receive the backing of 7 percent.  Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former Minn. Gov. Tim Pawlenty both come in at 5 percent.  All others receive less than five percent support. 

In addition, more voters believe Romney is very or somewhat qualified to be president than any other contender tested.  Setting aside how they would vote, about two-thirds of all voters (68 percent) think Romney is qualified, followed by Gingrich at 58 percent, Pawlenty at 43 percent, Palin at 41 percent and Cain at 32 percent.

Of the candidates included in the poll, only Palin is viewed as not qualified to be president by a majority of voters.  Many voters are unable to rate Cain and Pawlenty. 

Among just Republican primary voters, 85 percent think Romney is qualified and 81 percent think Gingrich is.  For Palin, 67 percent of GOP primary voters think she is qualified, 57 percent say the same of Pawlenty and 49 percent believe Cain is qualified.

Winning matters more than issues.  By a wide 20-percentage point margin, GOP primary voters are more likely to say it’s “very important” their nominee can beat Obama (73 percent) than to say it’s “very important” for the nominee to share their views (53 percent).

Even so, if forced to pick, most Republican voters would rather see the economy turn around (80 percent) than be guaranteed their favorite candidate would win in 2012 (14 percent). 

That’s similar to how voters overall feel.  By a 5-to-1 margin, most voters would prefer economic growth (77 percent) over their candidate’s victory (15 percent).

Early, Hypothetical Matchups

In hypothetical matchups, Obama tops each of the Republican hopefuls tested.  In fact, none of the candidates who were pitted against the president match the 49 percent the “someone else” opponent receives in the generic re-elect Obama question.

Giuliani and Romney perform best against the president, keeping Obama’s edge to single digits.  Obama tops Giuliani by 4 percentage points and Romney by 7 points.

In each of the hypothetical contests, Giuliani garners more support from independents and those who consider themselves to be part of the Tea Party movement than any other Republican. 

Romney officially announced his candidacy last week in New Hampshire, while Giuliani is still considering a second bid.

Obama has a 19-point advantage over Gingrich, and bests Pawlenty by 18 points.

The president has the largest edge -- 21 points -- over Palin.  In fact, about one Republican in five says they would back Obama over Palin (21 percent).

Are Candidate Indiscretions Deal-Breakers for Voters?

If voters really like a candidate, most would stay supportive even if the candidate had past sexual indiscretions.  Some 65 percent of voters would support a favored candidate despite indiscretions -- that’s three times as many as say the bad behavior would be a deal-breaker (21 percent). In addition, more voters think the threat of exposing past relationships and infidelities keeps too many good leaders out of office (58 percent) than think it is important for voters to know (36 percent).

The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 912 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from June 5 to June 7.  For the total sample, it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. 

Sarah Palin is a Fox News contributor.