Declining confidence in the nation’s economic prospects appears to be the most powerful force influencing voters as the presidential election gears up, undercutting key areas of support for President Obama and helping give his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, an advantage on the question of who would better handle the nation’s economic challenges, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.
Despite months of negative advertising from Mr. Obama and his Democratic allies seeking to further define Mr. Romney as out of touch with the middle class and representative of wealthy interests, the poll shows little evidence of any substantial nationwide shift in attitudes about Mr. Romney.
But with job growth tailing off since spring and the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, wondering aloud whether the labor market is “stuck in the mud,” the poll showed a significant shift in opinion about Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy, with 39 percent now saying they approved and 55 percent saying they disapproved.
In the Times/CBS poll in April, when the economy seemed to have momentum, 44 percent approved and 48 percent disapproved.
The new poll shows that the race remains essentially tied, notwithstanding all of the Washington chatter suggesting that Mr. Romney’s campaign has seemed off-kilter amid attacks on his tenure at Bain Capital and his unwillingness to release more of his tax returns. Forty-five percent say they would vote for Mr. Romney if the election were held now and 43 percent say they would vote for Mr. Obama.