A new national Reason-Rupe poll of likely voters finds President Barack Obama leading Republican Mitt Romney 48 percent to 43 percent in the presidential race. When undecided voters are asked which way they are leaning Obama’s lead over Romney grows to 52-45.  

President Obama holds large advantages among women (53-37), African-Americans (92-2) and Hispanics (71-18). Fifty-two percent of likely voters view Obama favorably, while 45 view him unfavorably. In contrast, 49 percent of likely voters have an unfavorable view of Mitt Romney and 41 percent have a favorable view of him. 

In a three-way presidential race, Obama drops to 49 percent among likely voters and Romney falls to 42 percent as the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson gets six percent of support. Johnson is already on the presidential ballot in 47 states.

The Reason-Rupe poll conducted live interviews with 1,006 adults, including 787 likely voters, via landlines  (602) and cell phones (404) from September 13-17, 2012. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.8 percent, 4.3 percent for the likely voters sample. Princeton Survey Research Associates International executed the Reason-Rupe poll.

Government’s Role and Influence 

As the presidential candidates debate the role of government, the Reason-Rupe poll finds 55 percent of Americans believe the federal government has too much influence over their lives, 36 percent say the amount of influence is about right and just 7 percent say the government does not have enough influence.

Over two-thirds, 67 percent, of likely voters say it is not the government’s responsibility to reduce income differences between Americans, while 29 percent say it is the government’s responsibility.  Similarly, 61 percent of likely voters tell Reason-Rupe that today’s levels of income inequality are an acceptable part of America’s economic system, 35 percent say income inequalities need to be fixed. 

Today, 59 percent of voters believe all Americans have equal opportunities to succeed, whereas 39 percent do not believe everyone has equal opportunities.

When asked if they are better off than they were four years ago, 44 percent of likely voters feel they are better off, 41 percent say worse off. 

Taxes

A majority of Americans, 57 percent, support raising income tax rates on incomes over $250,000.  However, the very same number—57 percent—says the top 5 percent of earners shouldn’t have to contribute more than 40 percent of the total federal income taxes paid to government. In 2009, the top 5 percent of earners contributed 59 percent of total federal income taxes paid.

Medicare

When it comes to future Medicare benefits, 68 percent of voters say they’d be willing to accept some cuts to their own Medicare benefits as long as they’re guaranteed to receive benefits equal to what they and their employers pay into the system.  When presented with the basic details of Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan, 61 percent of voters think out-of-pocket health care costs would go up for seniors as a result of the plan. Yet, despite assuming out-of-pocket costs would rise, voters prefer Medicare reforms built around giving seniors a credit to purchase health insurance over reforms like President Obama’s, which include a payment board to help determine which medical treatments are effective and covered. By a margin of 47 percent to 38 percent, voters favor a Medicare credit system over a payment board system.  

Audit the Fed

Just 16 percent of voters approve, and 77 percent disapprove, of the job Congress is doing. And though many pundits say this has been a “do-nothing” Congress, Americans think that’s a feature not a bug. In fact, 45 percent of Americans wish Congress would pass even fewer laws than it does now, while 27 percent would like Congress to pass more laws. There is, however, one law Americans would overwhelmingly like to see: 70 percent tell Reason-Rupe they are in favor of auditing the Federal Reserve. Twenty-one percent are opposed to a congressional-led audit of the Fed.

Full Poll 

The complete Reason-Rupe survey is online here and here.

 This is the latest in a series of Reason-Rupe public opinion surveys dedicated to exploring what Americans really think about government and major issues.  This Reason Foundation project is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.