Despite concerted Democratic attacks on his business record, Republican challenger Mitt Romney scores a significant advantage over President Obama when it comes to managing the economy, reducing the federal budget deficit and creating jobs, a national USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds.
By more than 2-1, 63%-29%, those surveyed say Romney's background in business, including his tenure at the private equity firm Bain Capital, would cause him to make good decisions, not bad ones, in dealing with the nation's economic problems over the next four years.
The findings raise questions about Obama's strategy of targeting Bain's record in outsourcing jobs and hammering Romney for refusing to commit to releasing more than two years of his tax returns.
Instead, Americans seem focused on the economy, where disappointment with the fragile recovery and the 8.2% unemployment rate are costing the president.
To be sure, Obama retains significant advantages of his own. By 2-1, he's rated as more likable than Romney. By double digits, those surveyed say the president better understands the problems Americans face in their daily lives. He has an 8-percentage-point advantage on being seen as honest and trustworthy.
However, Romney has the edge when it comes to being able to "get things done," and the broad landscape seems tilted in his favor:
Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are much more enthusiastic about the election, an important factor in persuading supporters to vote. By 18 points, 51%-33%, they report being more enthusiastic than usual about voting. In contrast, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents by 4 points say they are less enthusiastic than usual, 43%-39%.
A record number express skepticism about the activist role of government Obama espouses; 61% say the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. That's the highest number since Gallup began asking the question in 1992.
Democratic attacks on Romney seem to have had little effect on voters' assessments of him. In February, 53% said the former Massachusetts governor had the personality and leadership qualities a president should have; now 54% do. Then, 42% said they agreed with him on the issues that mattered most to them; now 45% do.
"You've got to give the voters credit -- economic reality trumps campaign rhetoric," Romney pollster Neil Newhouse says.
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt notes that other recent surveys have shown the Bain attacks hurting Romney's credibility on the economy. He predicts the Democratic arguments will do more damage: "The more they are learning about his record, the less supportive they are."
Despite the negative ads being aired by both sides, a majority of Americans say neither candidate has been attacked unfairly. In the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, 36% (mostly Democrats) say Romney has been attacking the president unfairly; 38% (mostly Republicans) say Obama has been attacking Romney unfairly.
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