The president enters the general election stage with significant
vulnerabilities, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll.
A rising number of Americans see improvement in the economy, but
a persistent wariness about their own financial circumstances is
allowing Mitt Romney a chance to convince voters that he could
improve their economic prospects more than President Barack Obama,
according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
The poll found the two men locked in a tight race, with each
gathering the support of 46 percent. The share of voters who said
they were confident in Mr. Romney's ability to make the right
decisions on the economy and to be commander in chief was about
equal to the percentage expressing confidence in Mr. Obama.
Even as the United States rebounds from the recession, its
lingering effects are reflected in the adversities facing families.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans were concerned about paying for their
housing, the poll found, and one in five people with mortgages said
they were underwater. Four in 10 parents said they had had to alter
expectations for the type of college they could afford for their
children. And more than one-third of respondents said high gasoline
prices had created serious financial hardships.
The general election match between Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney is
opening with evidence that economic conditions are providing
ammunition for both candidates. For Mr. Obama, there is a gradually
growing perception that the general outlook is turning brighter, and
for Mr. Romney, there are those individuals who still do not feel
substantial improvement in their own lives. As many voters thought
they would do better under Mr. Romney as under Mr. Obama, but
slightly more said they would do worse if the president was re-
With less than seven months before Election Day, a furious
scramble is under way by Democrats to define their opponent. Mr.
Romney's bruises from the Republican primary fight were evident --
only 29 percent of voters had a favorable view of him -- but more
than one-third said they had yet to form an opinion, creating a
chance for him to introduce himself as a fix-it man who could
improve the economic circumstances of Americans.
"We need a president who has a business background, and Mitt
Romney's business background is tremendous," Michael Larson, 55, a
salesman and independent voter from Minneapolis, said Wednesday in a
While the poll showed Mr. Romney had a significant entree with
voters who were frustrated at the direction of the country, Mr.
Obama may have the upper hand when it comes to economic policy
debates. A majority of voters said upper-income Americans paid less
than their fair share of taxes, while half said capital gains and
dividends should be taxed at the same rate as income from work -- a
disparity highlighted by Mr. Romney's own effective tax rate of
about 15 percent.
A week after dispatching his chief Republican rival, Rick
Santorum, Mr. Romney has solidified support within his party. A
majority of Republican primary voters, 54 percent, said they wanted
to see Mr. Romney become the nominee, including a plurality of
evangelical Christians, a group that formed Mr. Santorum's base of
The poll highlighted a lack of strong excitement among some
Republican voters for Mr. Romney's candidacy, with just one in three
saying they would enthusiastically support him in November. While
that was hardly a resounding endorsement, it may be a temporary
shortcoming that can be overcome by the fierce resistance among
conservative Republicans to Mr. Obama.
Mr. Romney also faces considerable hurdles as he begins
presenting his views to a wider audience. The poll found that more
than 6 in 10 voters thought Mr. …