Which candidate can better steer the economy?

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign event in Chantilly, Va., on May 2, 2012. Gallup polls show that Romney has an edge over Barack Obama in American opinion on who can better fix the U.S. economy.

Tess Vigeland: Let's say you unplugged from all the noise. Shut down your computer. Turned off your TV. Stopped reading the news. Come November, what do you think people are talking about?

Probably the same thing they are talking about now. Frank Newport is the editor-in-chief at Gallup. He's here every week to give us an Attitude Check on issues Americans care about most. Frank, good to have you back.

Frank Newport: Good to be with you.

Vigeland: So, yet again, the economy is on voters' minds?

Newport: Oh absolutely, two-thirds, actually exactly 66 percent of Americans say it's the economy in general or it's jobs and unemployment or it's the deficit. Basically, the economy is overwhelmingly the dominant issue on voters' minds, no question about that.

Vigeland: Then let's talk about the presidential race. Given that issue, whom do Americans think might have an edge in getting the economy going?

Newport: Well you know, it is Mitt Romney. One recent way that we asked it was: If Romney wins the election, in four years will the economy be better? And then we asked: If Obama wins the election, in four years will the economy be better? It was a nine-point edge for Romney when it comes to hemming the economy.

Vigeland: Does the poll give you any sense of why that is, why Romney has that edge?

Newport: It's a good question. We looked at it and one thing that we find is that Romney does better than Obama in terms of being able to manage the government. Now, I have to point out that Obama does better in a lot of the softer dimensions -- he cares about people like you, he's more likeable. Romney has an image as perhaps cold, calculating, a technocrat, but nevertheless somebody who can manage the government and do a better job in the economy. I think Obama's people know that, and that's why you've seen the commercials more recently, at least in swing states, that are trying to attack Romney on exactly that issue, going at his experience with Bain Capital.

Vigeland: It certainly sounds like his image of being among the more wealthy in this country, shall we say, hasn't hurt them. Does it help him?

Newport: Over 80 percent of Americans say that Romney is rich. Sixty-six percent say that Obama is rich, about that percent. So both men are perceived as rich. Whether or not that helps or hurts Romney and/or Obama is a little difficult to tease out. I don't think it necessarily does because some recent data that we talked about shows that Americans think it's good to have rich people in our country, and actually a lot of Americans wish they could be rich themselves.

Vigeland: Our partnership with Gallup is called Attitude Check, check out the data here. Frank Newport, thank you so much.

Newport: My pleasure.

About the author

Frank Newport, Ph.D., is the editor-in-chief at Gallup and appears regularly on Marketplace.

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