Fox News Poll: 44 Percent Would Re-elect Obama; Romney Remains Top of GOP List

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More American voters disapprove than approve of the job President Obama is doing. Likewise, if making a choice today, more voters say they would back someone else for president in 2012 than say they would give Obama a second term. Who would that someone else be?

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney remains Republican primary voters’ preferred candidate. He’s also the GOP contender more voters see as likely to do a good job in the White House.

These are some of the findings from a Fox News poll released Wednesday.

Currently 42 percent of voters approve of Obama’s job performance and 48 percent disapprove. Last month, before the agreement on the nation’s debt limit was finalized, 45 percent approved and 46 percent disapproved (July 17-19, 2011).

The drag on the president’s rating these days is not only lower approval among Democrats, which currently stands at 77 percent, but also a record-low 31 percent approval among independents. Approval among Republicans is 6 percent -- matching a previous record-low in October 2010.

Meanwhile, for the first time, the poll shows a 51-percent majority of voters think Obama is not a strong and decisive leader.

Today 45 percent say he is a strong leader, down from 52 percent earlier this year, and 60 percent in October 2009.

Similarly, 51 percent of voters say if the election were today, they would vote for someone else over President Obama. That’s about the same as the 49 percent who said someone else in June.

Forty-four percent would re-elect Obama, unchanged from two months ago (June 5-7, 2011).

The Fox poll first asked this question after Obama had been in office about 100 days, and at that time 52 percent said they would give him a second term, and 31 percent would vote to oust him (April 2009).

For Democrats, 80 percent would re-elect Obama, down from a high of 87 percent early in his term (April 2009).

Among the key voting group of independents, 33 percent would give Obama a second term, while over half -- 57 percent -- would vote for someone else. By a 52-44 percent margin, independents backed Obama in the 2008 election and helped him secure victory (Fox News Exit Poll).

Still, it’s important to remember the presidential election is 15 months away and the Republican candidate is yet to be determined.

And maybe there’s room for more than two in this race? Two out of three voters (66 percent) say they would consider supporting a third party presidential candidate. Even so, an almost equal number doubt a third-party entrant has a reasonable chance of winning (64 percent). Despite the negative feelings toward current office holders, these views on third party candidates are unchanged from how voters felt in 2007.

Make a Good President?

On the whole, voters are more likely to say Romney would make a good president than any of the other Republican hopefuls tested. Even so, just 34 percent give him a thumbs-up. That increases to 50 percent among Republicans. In fact, only Romney receives a positive response from at least half of Republicans.

The next highest is Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann: 22 percent of voters overall and 40 percent of Republicans think she would make a good president.

At the other end of the scale, about 7 voters in 10 think former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would not make a good president, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich receives similarly negative marks.

Many voters say they have “never heard of” several announced candidates, including former Ambassador Jon Huntsman (41 percent), businessman Herman Cain (41 percent), former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum (39 percent) and former Minn. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (33 percent).

Race for the Nomination

Romney remains the frontrunner in the race for the Republican nomination, garnering 21 percent among GOP primary voters. The only other candidate to receive double-digit support is unannounced candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry at 13 percent.

Palin comes in third with 8 percent, followed closely by Bachmann and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani both at 7 percent, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Gingrich both receive 6 percent. All others receive 5 percent support or less. Giuliani and Palin are unannounced.

When the field is narrowed to just the announced candidates, Romney’s support increases to 26 percent. He’s followed by Bachmann at 13 percent, Paul at 10 percent, and Gingrich and Cain with 9 percent each. These are almost identical to the responses three weeks ago.

Candidate Qualities

Which is more important when picking a president -- competence or principles? It’s a fairly tough choice for voters: 41 percent say “principles” and 33 percent say “competence.” Another 24 percent says “both.”

By a wide 18 percentage-point spread, Republicans say the more important characteristic is “principles.” For Democrats, “principles” also takes priority, by a slim 1-point margin.

The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 904 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from August 7 to August 9. 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.

Click here for the full Fox News poll results.