With less than a week before the election, the race for the White House is dead even: Barack Obama and Mitt Romney receive 46 percent each, according to a Fox News poll of likely voters.
Romney had a razor-thin 46-45 percent edge earlier this month, after the first presidential debate (October 7-9).
Interviews in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy were completed before Monday evening, when the hurricane made landfall.
Independents give the edge to Romney by seven percentage points (46-39 percent). That’s down from a 12-point advantage in early October.
There’s a gender gap in vote preference, as men back Romney by 51-42 percent, while women side with Obama by 50-42 percent.
The new Fox poll finds Obama under-performing compared to his 2008 exit poll numbers by 13 percentage points among independents, 9 points among white men, 6 points among women and 4 points among voters under age 30.
Among the subgroup of most interested voters, those who are “extremely” interested in the election, Romney leads Obama by 53-42 percent.
The poll, released Wednesday, shows almost all Obama (92 percent) and Romney (91 percent) supporters say they will “definitely” vote for their candidate. Seven percent of Obama voters and eight percent of Romney voters say they will “probably” support or “lean” toward supporting their candidate.
Still, Romney’s supporters continue to be more enthusiastic: 69 percent say it’s extremely important he win, while 59 percent of those backing Obama feel that way.
And consider this: Fully 82 percent of Romney supporters say this year’s election is more important than the 2008 election. That’s 16 points higher than the 66 percent of Obama supporters who say the same.
Overall, 73 percent of voters feel this year’s election is more important than 2008.
Some good news in the poll for Obama is that nearly half of voters -- 46 percent -- are satisfied with the way things are going in the country today. That’s up from 31 percent two years ago, right before Republicans swept the midterm elections (October 2010).
In addition, by a slim two percentage-point margin, more voters think the economy is getting better than getting worse (45-43 percent).
The Romney campaign is focused on the 53 percent of voters who are unhappy with the way things are going in the country today, and the 50 percent who agree with him that government is too big.
Meanwhile, over half of voters -- 55 percent -- would like to see all or part of Obama’s health care law repealed -- something Romney’s said he would do on “Day 1.”
Nearly equal numbers of voters would be comfortable with each of the candidates as president: 44 percent would be comfortable with Obama for another four years, and 40 percent would be comfortable with Romney as president. Majorities would be uncomfortable with each (55 percent Obama, 58 percent Romney).
Forty-four percent of voters say economic issues such as jobs and growth will be most important in deciding their vote for president. That’s more than twice as many as any other issues. Sixteen percent say fiscal issues such as taxes, the deficit and government spending, 13 percent say social issues and seven percent national security issues.
Voters who say the economy will be most important in their decision back Romney by 50-43 percent, and fiscal-issue voters back him by a similar 50-41 percent.
In addition, more voters trust Romney on the top issues. More trust him to improve the economy (+9 points), reduce the deficit (+5 points) and manage their taxes (+5 points). By 54-41 percent, voters also think Romney has the right experience to create more jobs.
Obama comes out on top on handling foreign policy (+8 points), helping people achieve the American dream (+8 points), handling education (+7 points) and terrorism (+6 points).
The candidates are tied on taking the country in the right direction, encouraging the right values, handling health care and national security.
In addition, the two are about equally liked by voters. Fifty-two percent have a favorable opinion of Obama, while 51 percent have a positive view of Romney.
When voters are given more options to describe their views, the poll shows most like Obama as a person (69 percent). On his policies, some 48 percent like them, while 51 dislike them.
A 56-percent majority of voters likes Romney as a person. On his policies, voters divide almost evenly: 48 percent like his policies and 49 percent dislike them.
Forty-seven percent of voters like both Obama and his policies, while 42 percent like both Romney and his policies.
Some 29 percent dislike both Obama and his policies. For Romney, that’s 35 percent.
The Fox News poll is based on live telephone interviews on landlines and cell phones from October 28 to October 30 among 1,128 randomly-chosen likely voters nationwide. Likely voters are registered voters who are considered most likely to vote in the November presidential election. The poll is conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R). For the total sample, it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.