Fox News poll: Most voters want change, even as Obama holds edge

The latest Fox News poll finds the race for the White House holds steady, with 48 percent of likely voters backing the Obama-Biden ticket and 43 percent backing the Romney-Ryan ticket, if the election were held today.  That’s unchanged from two weeks ago, after the Democratic convention.

Romney was preferred by one percentage point (45-44 percent) before the two conventions (August 19-21).

The president’s advantage is within the poll’s margin of sampling error.

With six weeks until the election, the poll shows Romney supporters continue to be more enthusiastic, although the gap has narrowed.  By a four percentage-point spread, Romney backers are more likely than Obama supporters to say it’s “extremely” important their candidate wins.  Before the conventions Romney had a 10-point enthusiasm edge (August 19-21, 2012).

The Republican challenger’s supporters continue to be more interested:  62 percent are “extremely” interested in the election, while 52 percent of Obama supporters say the same.  That translates into a 3-point preference for Romney among voters “extremely” interested in the race (49-46 percent).

In addition, even as Obama’s post-convention bounce holds, about a quarter of voters (24 percent) want the country to “mostly stay on the course it’s on,” while 73 percent say “many policies need to change.”  Almost all Republicans (95 percent) and most independents (77 percent) think policies need to change, as do just over half of Democrats (51 percent).

The vote preference among independents is also unchanged from two weeks ago:  43 percent back Obama and 39 percent Romney.  Nearly one in five is undecided.

The president has a bit more party strength:  90 percent of Democrats back Obama, while 86 percent of Republicans back Romney.

Overall, most Romney (95 percent) and Obama supporters (93 percent) are “certain” of their vote.  A few -- 5 percent for Romney and 6 percent for Obama -- say they may change their mind.

Fifty-one percent of likely voters have a favorable opinion of Obama, while 48 percent view Romney positively.  Obama’s favorable rating was 53 percent after the Democratic convention (September 9-11, 2012).

The small number of undecided voters have a more favorable opinion of Obama (43 percent) than Romney (31 percent).  However, they also are more likely to disapprove (44 percent) than approve (31 percent) of Obama’s job performance.

More voters trust Obama on foreign affairs (+ 11 points) and terrorism (+ 10 points) and providing moral leadership for the country (+5 points).  More trust Romney on cutting government spending (+ 17 points).  The two are roughly even on improving the economy (Obama + 1 point) and managing tax dollars (Romney + 1 point).

By a 31-point margin, voters are more worried about what could happen to the country if something isn’t done about the national debt than the possibility of a terrorist attack (57-26 percent).

The president’s 11-point advantage on handling foreign affairs is down slightly from a 15-point edge two weeks ago -- before the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Libya and violent protests in other Muslim areas around the world.

Obama’s Job Performance
Overall, views are sharply divided on the job Obama is doing as president:  49 percent of likely voters approve and 48 percent disapprove.  Two weeks ago 50 percent approved and 47 percent disapproved (September 9-11, 2012).

By a 49-44 percent margin, more independents disapprove than approve of Obama’s job performance.

On the issues, the president receives his highest approval on handling terrorism (56 percent approve) and his lowest on Libya (39 percent approve).

More voters disapprove (52 percent) than approve (44 percent) of Obama on the economy.  Even so, that’s an improvement from two years ago -- immediately before the midterm election -- when 35 percent approved and 61 percent disapproved (October 2010).

Sentiment is split over whether Obama administration policies have helped or hurt the economy (38 percent each).  Twenty-one percent say they haven’t made a difference.

Voters are somewhat more pessimistic about the government’s 2009 economic stimulus plan:  47 percent say it hurt the economy by funding pork-barrel projects and adding to the deficit, while 42 percent think it helped by stimulating spending and saving jobs.

By a slim 47-44 percent margin, likely voters think Obama has broken more promises than he’s kept, and are divided over whether he deserves to be re-elected based on the job he’s done over ht last four years:  50 percent say yes and 46 percent no.

Likewise, almost equal numbers are very happy or satisfied with the Obama administration (49 percent) as are disappointed or angry (50 percent).  Still, there are more “angry” voters (20 percent) than “very happy” ones (12 percent).

More than a third of independents are disappointed with the administration (35 percent), as are seven percent of Democrats.

Media Coverage of the Election
Nearly half of voters think news organizations spend more time defending Obama and attacking Romney (47 percent).  That’s three times as many as say reporters spend more time defending Romney and attacking Obama (16 percent).

Voters also think media coverage of the campaigns is focusing more on silly issues of little importance for the country (64 percent), than serious issues of great importance (27 percent).

The Fox News poll is based on live telephone interviews on landlines and cell phones from September 24 to September 26 among 1,092 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.  The poll is weighted by age and race; it is not weighted by party identification.