Are you better off than you were four years ago? Ronald Reagan asked Americans voters that in a pivotal 1980 debate with then-President Jimmy Carter.
Today, fewer than four voters in ten answer yes to the question.
Thirty-seven percent of voters say they are better off than four years ago. Nearly half -- 48 percent -- say they aren’t. Another 13 percent say their situation is unchanged.
That’s according to a Fox News national poll released Wednesday.
Meanwhile, by a 12 percentage-point margin, more voters say the Obama administration has made the economy worse (49 percent) rather than better (37 percent).
A 62-percent majority says they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country. The good news for the president is that’s down from 67 percent in April.
Thirty-eight percent of voters are satisfied with how things are going. That’s the highest that number has been since early in Barack Obama’s term.
President Obama’s overall job performance rating is divided: 47 percent of voters approve and 49 percent disapprove. In late June 48 percent approved and 43 percent disapproved.
Despite voters’ sentiments about their own lives and the economy, 50 percent say President Obama deserves to be re-elected. Almost as many -- 48 percent -- say he doesn’t.
In addition, 45 percent of voters would back Obama and 41 percent Republican Mitt Romney, if the presidential election were held today. Obama’s advantage is within the poll’s three percentage-point margin of sampling error.
About four voters in ten say they are “extremely” interested in the election. Among that group, Romney tops Obama by 53-42 percent.
Voters who say they are better off than they were four years ago back Obama (71-16 percent). Those who are worse off today largely support Romney (64-22 percent).
Independents split almost evenly into three groups: 38 percent prefer Obama, 34 percent prefer Romney and 28 percent are undecided or won’t vote. Last month Obama had a similar (statistically-insignificant) edge among independents, while Romney had the advantage from April through early June.
The race tightens when at least one of the names said to be on Romney’s vice presidential short-list is included on a hypothetical ticket. A Mitt Romney-Condoleezza Rice ticket ties the Barack Obama-Joe Biden ticket at 46 percent each.
Independents split 41 percent for Obama-Biden and 40 percent Romney-Rice.
Overall, Republicans have a higher level of interest in the election, and are more energized about its importance. By an 11-point margin Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they are "extremely" interested in the presidential election. Likewise, Romney supporters are 10-points more likely than Obama supporters to believe it is “extremely” important their candidate wins (58 percent and 48 percent respectively).
Despite a slim 53-percent majority of independents saying Obama deserves re-election, most of these swing voters are dissatisfied with how things are going in the country, and are more likely to think Obama’s policies have made the economy worse rather than better.
About one in nine Democrats says Obama doesn’t deserve to be re-elected (12 percent).
By a 5-point margin more voters say Obama is honest and trustworthy than not (51-46 percent). That’s the lowest honesty rating Obama has received in a Fox News poll. The highest was 73 percent in April 2009, right around his 100th day in office.
Still, this decline isn’t atypical. Some 69 percent of voters said Former President George W. Bush was honest and trustworthy early in his term and that dropped to 52 percent in March 2004.
Romney fares slightly worse on this measure as less than half of voters think he’s honest. By a 3-point margin more voters than not think Romney is honest and trustworthy (46-43 percent).
More Democrats (25 percent) say Romney is honest and trustworthy, than Republicans say the same of Obama (16 percent).
By a 6-point margin independents think Obama is honest (50-44 percent), while by a 20-point margin they say Romney is not (31-51 percent).
When making the “toughest decision of your life,” who would you go to for advice? Mimicking the ballot preference, 46 percent say they would go to Obama, while 41 percent say Romney.
Half of voters think Romney’s business experience is a positive because it shows he knows how to get the economy growing, while 40 percent say it’s a negative because it shows he put corporate profit ahead of American workers.
Given all the back-and-forth campaigning over Romney’s time at the investment firm Bain Capital, who do people believe? Romney comes out on top, as voters are more likely to say his campaign’s description of his work at Bain is “mostly true” (45 percent) rather than “mostly false” (32 percent). For the Obama campaign, more voters say its characterization of Romney’s work is “mostly false” (44 percent) rather than “mostly true” (35 percent).
Romney appears to have recovered from the bruising Republican primary race. Fifty-two percent of voters have a favorable view of him. That’s up from 46 percent in June and Romney’s highest positive rating to date. Some 40 percent have an unfavorable opinion.
A 52-percent majority views Obama favorably, while 46 percent have a negative view.
Finally, class warfare is a hot topic in the campaign. The new poll shows 21 percent of voters think Obama dislikes rich people, and 23 percent think Romney dislikes working-class people.
The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 901 randomly-chosen registered voters nationwide and is conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from July 15 to July 17. For the total sample, it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.