In a tight presidential race that both candidates say will turn on the economy, majorities of American voters believe neither has a plan to improve things.
A new Fox News poll released Wednesday shows that by a 14 percentage-point margin, more voters think Barack Obama (41 percent) has a clear plan to improve the economy than think Mitt Romney does (27 percent). Still, a 53-percent majority says Obama doesn’t have a plan, and a 55-percent majority says Romney doesn’t.
Romney has yet to seal the deal with all his party faithful, as less than half of Republicans (49 percent) think the former Massachusetts governor has a plan to help the economy. In contrast, nearly three quarters (72 percent) of Democrats say Obama does.
Shortly after taking office Obama said it was up to him to improve the economy, and if he didn’t do so in three years he would be a one-term president. The new poll asks, “If voters hold Obama accountable on getting the economy on track, do you think he would deserve re-election, or not?” Voters are split: 48 percent say Obama would deserve another term, while 47 percent disagree.
The president has the advantage on empathy. Overall, by a 47-36 percent margin voters pick Obama over Romney as the candidate who would do a better job looking out for their family during “tough economic times.”
Meanwhile, many more voters think Obama (52 percent) is running a positive campaign that is “focused on the issues” than say the same of Romney (36 percent).
President Obama has a 45-40 percent edge over Romney in a head-to-head matchup, if the election were held today. At the beginning of June the candidates were tied at 43 percent each (June 3-5).
The president’s advantage is within the poll’s margin of sampling error.
Some 38 percent of voters say they are “extremely” interested in the presidential race. Among those most interested voters, Romney tops Obama by 49-44 percent. Republicans (46 percent) are much more likely than Democrats (34 percent) and independents (30 percent) to be “extremely” interested right now.
The Republican challenger’s edge among high-interest voters does not automatically equate to an edge among those most likely to vote if the election were held today. Fully 80 percent of voters say they would “definitely” have voted if the election had been “today,” and among those voters Obama tops Romney by 46-43 percent.
Among independents, 37 percent back Obama, 31 percent back Romney and nearly a third are unsure or say they won’t vote (31 percent). This is a shift -- since April independents had been breaking for Romney. Independents are less interested in the presidential election right now than Democrats and Republicans -- and most other groups.
The poll shows 40 percent of voters think the economy is getting better. That’s up significantly from 26 percent who felt that way last summer (July 17-19, 2011). Even so, almost as many -- 39 percent -- say the economy is getting worse. The remaining 18 percent say it’s staying the same.
Perceptions of the economy split down party lines, with 62 percent of Democrats say it’s getting better, and 66 percent of Republicans say it’s getting worse.
Overall, most voters feel optimistic about the future: 66 percent think the economy will “eventually” recover to where it was before the recession. About one in four disagrees (24 percent).
Democrats (77 percent) are much more likely than Republicans (59 percent) and independents (58 percent) to say the economy will get back to where it was pre-recession.
Just under half of voters -- 48 percent -- approve of the job Obama is doing as president. Earlier this month 49 percent approved (June 3-5).
There’s only been one time Obama’s approval rating has been above 50 percent in the last two years. In May 2011, after the killing of Usama bin Laden, 55 percent of voters gave the president positive marks.
Slim majorities disapprove of how Obama is handling the federal deficit (56 percent disapprove), the economy (52 percent) and health care (51 percent).
By a 54-36 percent margin, voters favor the president’s recent announcement that the government will suspend deportation and grant work permits for certain illegal immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought to the U.S. as children.
The administration made this policy change despite President Obama’s repeated statements that the Constitution prevented him from unilaterally doing so. Voters are twice as likely to say the administration found a “lawful way” to change the immigration policy as to say it violated the constitution.
Half of voters overall and 22 percent of Democrats think the president’s decision to change the government’s policy was motivated by his desire to get more of the Latino vote this fall. Some 34 percent say he just wanted to do the right thing.
Approval of how President Obama is handling immigration went up after the announcement: 43 percent approve, up from 38 percent approval last month.
The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 912 randomly-chosen registered voters nationwide and is conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from June 24 to June 26. For the total sample, it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.