Fox News Poll: Obama more trusted on terrorism, Romney on economy

In a dead-even race for the White House, a majority of American voters say their candidate must win for the country to get stronger.  A Fox News poll released Thursday also finds Republican Mitt Romney tops President Barack Obama on economic issues, while Obama’s biggest strengths are mainly foreign policy and fighting terrorism.

Voters trust Romney to do a better job than on Obama on cutting government spending (+ 20 points), handling immigration (+7 points), encouraging job creation (+ 7 points), improving the economy (+ 7 points) and handling taxes (+ 4 points).

Obama is trusted more on education (+18 points), terrorism (+13 points), foreign policy (11 points), bringing the country together (+5 points), standing up to special interests (+ 5 points) strengthening families (+4 points) and health care (+ 3 points).

Click for the poll results.

Attacking the former governor’s investment background doesn’t appear to be a convincing argument.  Nearly twice as many voters say Romney’s experience with the investment firm Bain Capital is a good thing (32 percent) as say a bad thing (17 percent).  The largest number says it doesn’t make a difference either way (44 percent).

By a 31-12 percent margin, independents are more likely to consider his work at Bain a good thing; 48 percent say it doesn’t matter either way.

If the presidential election were held today, the poll shows the race evenly split 43 percent each for Obama and Romney.  Last month Obama had a seven percentage-point edge over Romney, while in April the candidates were tied at 46 percent each.

Nearly 4 voters in 10 say they are “extremely” interested in the presidential election right now.  Among just those voters, Romney tops Obama by 50-42 percent.  Republicans are slightly more likely than Democrats and independents to be extremely interested.

Romney’s advantage among extremely interested voters doesn’t translate into an advantage among those who say they would definitely vote right now.

Nearly 8 voters in 10 say they would “definitely” vote if the election were “next week,” and among just those voters the race is mostly unchanged from the overall tied results:  45 percent of “definite” voters would back Obama and 44 percent Romney.

Independents pick Romney over Obama by four percentage points.  Last month Romney had a five-point edge among independents.

Romney backers (79 percent) are more likely than Obama backers (73 percent) to think their candidate “must win for the United States to be a better and stronger country.”

One in four Obama voters (25 percent) says it “doesn’t really matter which candidate wins” because things in the country will be about the same either way.  Eighteen percent of Romney voters agree with that sentiment.

All in all, 71 percent of voters think their candidate must win for the U.S. to be a stronger country.  That’s a bit lower than the 74 percent who felt that way in October 2008.  Some 26 percent today say it doesn’t matter who wins.

The poll asks about a several candidate qualities.  More voters think Obama is better described as “taking personal responsibility” (+8 points), being honest (+7 points), being “on your side” (+6 points), and having the right experience and being a strong leader (+ 5 points each).

Yet Obama also tops Romney in one way he’d rather not:  By a 13 percentage-point margin more voters think Obama is a “talker” not a doer.

The president continues to have a higher favorable rating than his challenger.  Fifty-four percent of voters have a positive opinion of Obama, his highest favorable rating in more than a year.  The new poll shows 46 percent view Romney favorably, which is the highest positive rating he’s ever received in a Fox News poll.

Finally, by a 58-21 percent margin, voters think most members of the media want Obama to beat Romney in November.  Four years ago, 67 percent thought reporters favored Obama, while 11 percent said Republican John McCain (July 2008).

The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 907 randomly-chosen registered voters nationwide and is conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from June 3 to June 5.  For the total sample, it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.