The race between Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney is dead even in a new Fox News poll that also shows majorities of American voters say neither candidate has a plan for fixing the economy.
The national poll, released Wednesday, finds President Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Romney each at 46 percent, if the election were held today.
Earlier this month Romney topped Obama by two percentage points, 46-44 percent (April 9-11). That was only the second time the Fox poll showed Romney on top. In March, Obama bested Romney by four points (46-42 percent).
Women are more likely to back Obama by 47-42 percent, while men back Romney over Obama by 49-45 percent. Working moms support Obama by 55-32 percent.
Independents give the advantage to Romney by 13 points. Two weeks ago he had a six-point edge with independents, while in March independents split evenly between the candidates.
Voters who are part of the Tea Party movement back Romney over Obama by 83-8 percent.
Seven in 10 voters say they are either “extremely” or “very” interested in the presidential election. Interest among Democrats (70 percent) is at its highest level this year, although it remains a bit lower than enthusiasm among Republicans (75 percent).
Among just those voters who are extremely interested in 2012 race, Romney has a 5-point edge (50-45 percent).
The president bests the Republican contender on a couple of key measures. More voters think Obama (36 percent) has a “clear plan for fixing the economy” than think Romney does (31 percent). In addition, voters are slightly more likely to view the president favorably than unfavorably (50-48 percent), while the opposite is true for Romney (42-45 percent).
Romney has an advantage over the president among voters who are “extremely” concerned about the economy (by 13 points) and the future of the country (by 16 points).
Slightly more voters say they would “definitely” vote for Obama than say the same of Romney. Yet slightly more voters also say they would “never” support Obama than feel that way about his opponent.
Among independents, 54 percent say they would never vote for Obama, while fewer -- 37 percent -- have already decided against Romney.
Overall, about six in 10 think neither Obama (61 percent) nor Romney (58 percent) has a plan to fix the economy.
The poll shows Romney still needs to shore up support with the party faithful: 55 percent of Republicans think Romney has a plan to fix the economy. That’s fewer than the 66 percent of Democrats who say Obama does.
In addition, 75 percent of Republicans have a favorable opinion of Romney. By contrast, 87 percent of Democrats view Obama positively.
Twenty-six percent of self-described conservatives have a negative opinion of Romney.
By a 65-28 percent margin, voters view first lady Michelle Obama positively. Her favorable rating was also 65 percent in January 2009, the week before her husband took office.
Four years ago, 44 percent of voters had a favorable opinion of Mrs. Obama, 29 percent an unfavorable view and 27 percent couldn’t rate her (June 2008).
Likewise, at this stage of the campaign many voters are still unfamiliar with the Republican challenger’s wife Ann Romney: 39 percent have a favorable opinion of her, while 25 percent have an unfavorable opinion and 36 percent either can’t rate or have never heard of her.
Opinion is almost evenly divided over whether the spouses of presidential candidates who are on the campaign trail are fair game (45 percent) or should be off limits (49 percent).
Still, a 72-percent majority says it was a “cheap shot” when a Democratic strategist recently said Ann Romney, a stay-at-home mother of five children, hadn’t worked a day in her life.
Meanwhile, being a working mom is seen as tougher than being a stay-at-home mom by 49-29 percent. And being a stay-at-home mom is seen as a tougher job than being a political strategist by 60-25 percent.
The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 915 randomly-chosen registered voters nationwide and is conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from April 22 to April 24. For the total sample, it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.