Moreover, Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., may be making headway in their argument about the threat of government overreach. Asked whether overregulation or a system that favors the wealthy is the bigger problem, 49 percent of voters say unfairness and 42 percent say overregulation. This is the first time in polls this year that under 50 percent of voters chose unfairness as the larger concern.
Similarly, the percentage of voters who say the government should pursue policies aimed at narrowing the gap between rich and poor has also dipped, although a slim majority, 52 percent, still support such efforts.
Obama continues to hold double-digit advantages when it comes to being the more friendly and likable of the two, and also as the candidate more voters trust on social issues, women's issues and terrorism. He maintains a big lead when it comes to empathizing with people facing economic problems. And he has a 10-point edge when it comes to handling "an unexpected major crisis," the first time the question has been asked this year.
He and Romney are judged more evenly on some other key issues, including the deficit, health care and Medicare. Romney does not have significant leads in any of the areas tested in the poll, but he has a numerical edge on dealing with the federal budget deficit, 48 percent to 45 percent, among all voters.
On the economy — still the dominant issue in the campaign — voters render a split verdict, with the two tied at 47 percent.
The state of the economy and dissatisfaction over the country's direction continue to be steep obstacles to the president's reelection — but Obama benefits from recent improvements in voters' moods, even if it is mainly Democrats who are feeling better about things.
More voters still give Obama negative ratings for his handling of the economy, but the number of approvers has edged up to 47 percent, its highest level in nearly two years.