Swing-voting independents see Barack Obama's plans for the economy negatively rather than positively by 54-38 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, marking the president's challenges as he seeks re-election in still-troubled economic times.
It's no party for Mitt Romney either. Independents also rate his economic plans more unfavorably than favorably, by 47-35 percent. But more are undecided, giving Romney some room to maneuver; unlike Obama, Romney avoids majority criticism in this group.
Romney lags among moderates, and does less well among conservatives than Obama does among liberals. But the president's economic plans are underwater among middle- to upper-middle-income Americans, while Romney manages an even split in this group. And Obama's economic program is especially unpopular - by 2 to 1 among whites, though he does far better than Romney among nonwhites.
Obama also crosses the 50 percent negative line among registered voters, who see his economic program unfavorably rather than favorably by 51-43 percent. Romney's rating among registered voters is 46 to 40 percent unfavorable-favorable, again with more undecided.
Obama's challenges vs. Romney show more starkly when two of the president's weaker groups are combined - independents who are registered to vote. In this group, more see Obama's economic plans unfavorably than favorably by 56-36 percent; on Romney's it's 45-39 percent.
In sum this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, highlights the mixture of economic discontent and partisan preferences that both candidates face. Overall, Americans respond negatively rather than positively to Obama's economic proposals by 50-43 percent, and to Romney's by 47-37 percent, with, as noted, sharp differences among groups.
GROUPS - Partisanship is one area in which Obama gains ground. Two thirds of liberals are on board with his economic agenda, while a smaller share of conservatives, 53 percent, line up behind Romney's. And Obama breaks even among political moderates, 48-46 percent favorable-unfavorable, while Romney's economic reviews in this group are negative by a 10-point margin.
Race and ethnicity are significant factors. As noted, whites see Obama's economic plans twice as negatively as positively, 62-31 percent. They break evenly on Romney's, 42-42 percent.
African-Americans, in contrast, see Obama's economic program positively by 81-15 percent, but Romney's by 22-68 percent. Latinos also respond more positively to Obama's plans than to Romney's, by 59-33 percent vs. 31-48 percent, respectively.
ROOM? - Indecision on Romney's economic plans -16 percent among all adults, vs. 7 percent on Obama's - leaves the Republican somewhat more room for persuasion. On the other hand, more have a "strongly" positive view of Obama's plans, 22 percent, than of Romney's, 13 percent.
But strength of sentiment cuts both ways: While Obama's strongly favorable score on his economic intentions exceeds Romney's by 9 percentage points, his strongly negative responses also run ahead of Romney's, by 5 points.
The economy by far is the top issue in the 2012 election, and, after more than three years on the job, Obama had a 55 percent negative rating for handling it in an ABC/Post poll last month. Nonetheless, he and Romney were essentially tied in trust to handle it, and few were persuaded that, had Romney been president since 2009, things would be any better.
METHODOLOGY - This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cell phone June 6-10, 2012, among a random national sample of 1,007 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points. The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by SSRS/Social Science Research Solutions of Media, Pa.
Analysis by Gregory Holyk and Gary Langer.