President Barack Obama maintains a slight lead in the 2012 presidential race, edging out his Republican opponent Mitt Romney 49 per cent to 43 per cent, according to the latest round of national polling from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.But dig a little deeper in the poll and the numbers are more troubling for the incumbent, potentially signaling big problems for his re-election bid as his campaign heads into the heat of the fall election season.
The poll finds that, when it comes to economic messaging, Obama has a distinct advantage over Romney — 80 per cent of respondents say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who “will fight for balance and fairness and encourage the investments needed to grow our economy and strengthen the middle class,” a message that lines up with what the President says on the stump. Obama also has a 16-point lead on the question of which candidate is better for the middle class.
All of this probably sounds like good news. But in an interesting twist, when voters were asked about the candidate, rather than the message, the results were flipped — Romney has a 7-point edge on the question of which candidate has better ideas for the economy, leading Obama 47 per cent to 36 per cent, and the responses were nearly identical on the question of which candidate is better equipped to deal with the economy.
This apparent disconnect suggests a major messaging failure by the Obama campaign: While voters agree with what the President says about the economy, he hasn’t been able to convince voters that he can translate those goals into effective economic policies.
And more evidence of these messaging problems can be found throughout the NBC/WSJ poll.
According to the survey, negative views about both candidates have increased over the past month. Obama’s favourable/unfavorable score is now 49 per cent to 43 per cent, and his “very negative” rating has reached an all-time high at 32 per cent.
By comparison, Romney’s overall favourable/unfavorable score is 35 per cent to 40 per cent, with 24 per cent viewing him “very” negatively – also a record-high for the Republican presidential candidate.
“This is not characteristic … for July,” Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the survey with Democratic pollster Peter Hart, told MSNBC. “These are numbers you usually see in October.”
McInturff attributes this, in part, to the relentless barrage of attack ads from both campaigns over the past month, which he says have “polarised” voters perceptions about the candidates. While this barrage of negativity has done little to change to the overall state of the race, a plurality of respondents said that what they have seen or heard about the candidates over the past month has given them a less favourable impression of both candidates.
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