Poll: 20 percent say election is an afterthought
(CBS News) In spite of persistent, significant concerns about the economy, as many as one-fifth of American voters are paying little to no attention to the presidential election, according to a new CBS News poll.
Americans continue to say the country is headed in the wrong direction, and they are split over whether the nation is headed into another recession. Nearly four in 10 say they are worse off financially now than they were four years ago.
While these concerns dogged Americans over the summer, President Obama and his GOP rival Mitt Romney launched aggressive presidential campaigns. Their well-heeled super PAC allies added to the clamor, casting this year's election as one of the most important ever. Yet according to the poll, conducted Aug. 22-26, voters' attention to the campaign has not changed much since April when Romney all but locked-up the Republican Party's nomination.
As many as 45 percent of registered now say they are paying a lot of attention, including slightly more Republicans (47 percent) than Democrats (42 percent). In April, 43 percent were paying a lot of attention. In August of 2008, 51 percent said they were paying a lot of attention.
Another 34 percent of voters say they are paying some attention, while 20 percent are paying little to no attention.
While the number who say the country is headed in the right direction is far higher than it was at this point in the 2008 presidential campaign (when just 14 percent thought so), assessments now are more negative than they were before the presidential elections of 1996, 2000 and 2004.
Now, 31 percent of Americans now say the country is headed in the right direction and twice as many, 62 percent, say it is off on the wrong track; that has changed little since the beginning of the year.
Seven in 10 Americans rate the economy as bad, but that's an improvement compared to August 2010 and August 2008. The last time 50 percent or more said the economy was good was in October 2007.
More Americans (30 percent) think the economy is getting worse than think it's improving (25 percent). Another 43 percent think the economy is staying the same. The public is divided, 42 percent to 42 percent, as to whether or not the country's economy is probably headed into another recession.
While one in five Americans are better off financially now than they were four years ago, twice as many say they are worse off. Six in 10 Americans are concerned someone in their household will lose a job in the next six months, including one in three who are very concerned. Three in four Americans say that home foreclosures are a problem in their community, including a third who say that is a major problem.
Views of the candidates
In spite of the nation's largely negative views on the economy, Mr. Obama's supporters are more enthusiastic at this point in the race than Romney's.
As many as 59 percent of the voters who back the president say they enthusiastically support him - far larger than the share of Romney's supporters who say the same (35 percent). A third of the voters who back Romney say they support him with reservations, but 22 percent back him because they dislike the president.
Heading into the parties' conventions, Mr. Obama and Romney are in a tight race among registered voters who lean towards a candidate; Mr. Obama leads by just one point, 46 percent to 45 percent.
There is some room for movement in the race - but not much. About four in five voters say they have made up their minds which candidate to support, but for about one in 10 the race is not yet over, as they say it's too early and their minds could still change. Similar percentages of Obama and Romney voters could change their minds.
Democrats are satisfied, but more apt to be just somewhat satisfied (53 percent) than very satisfied (29 percent). Another 18 percent of Democrats are disappointed. Most independents (58 percent) are disappointed. Republicans, perhaps unsurprisingly, are very much so.
While most voters who are disappointed with the Obama presidency are not supporting Mr. Obama this fall, 14 percent still plan to vote for him.
Mr. Obama's job approval rating among all Americans is now more positive than negative; 48 percent approve - a four-point increase from July but about where it was in April - and 43 percent disapprove.
Americans have consistently said the economy is the top issue facing the country. On this, the president continues to receive low marks; a majority (54 percent) disapproves of his performance on it, unchanged from July.
Most voters, 52 percent, believe Romney would do a better job handling the economy and jobs, though Mr. Obama is seen as the candidate who would do a better job helping the middle class (he wins 50 percent to Romney's 42 percent).
Voters also think Mr. Obama would do a better job on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. The president has small edge over Romney on the issue of terrorism and national security, but they are about even on the issue of Medicare (45 percent say Mr. Obama would be better; 44 percent say Romney).
While Romney may be seen as the candidate who would do a better job on the economy, fewer than half of voters think either candidate has a clear plan for creating jobs. Just 43 percent think Romney has a plan, but even fewer, 35 percent, think Mr. Obama does.
For the full poll results, see next two pages.
This poll was conducted by telephone from August 22-26, 2012 among 1,218 adults nationwide, including 1,051 registered voters. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample and the sample of registered voters could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher. Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
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