In a new Washington Post/ABC News poll presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are in a virtual tie at 47 percent each. Yet about a quarter of likely voters say they may change their minds, even more so among Romney voters. Votes for Romney are less certain, enthusiastic, and are largely seen as a protest vote against the president. Fifty-nine percent of Romney's supporter say they are voting against Obama, whereas 74 of Obama's supporter are voting for Obama. About a quarter of Romney voters are "less enthusiastic" about their vote choice and quarter say they may change their vote.
Given tenuous support for Romney, one might expect Obama to clearly lead. Yet, majorities disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy (54 percent), health care (52 percent), and immigration (62 percent). Likewise a majority says the economy will play a significant role in presidential vote choice, a plurality (42 percent) agrees regarding health care, and another plurality (36 percent) say the federal budget deficit is extremely important. Pluralities also trust Romney over Obama in handling the economy (49 percent), and the budget deficit (52 percent). In terms of the salient issues people care most about, Americans view Romney as the more policy-competent of the two.
Yet Obama is considered the more focused and relatable candidate. Pluralities perceive him to have a better understanding of people's economic problems (50 percent), a clearer economic plan (43 percent), view him as a stronger leader (47 percent), more likely to stand up for what he believes in (48 percent) and ultimately more likeable (63 percent). These numbers suggest that people relate better to Obama and would probably prefer to have him over for dinner rather than Romney.
These data indicate Obama should be leading in the polls, yet he's in a virtual tie with his opponent. Perhaps, in today's difficult economy, Romney's consultant-in-chief persona outweighs Obama's resolve and neighborly likability.
Emily Ekins is the director of polling for Reason Foundation where she leads the Reason-Rupe public opinion research project, launched in 2011. Follow her on Twitter @emilyekins.