Attitude Check

Pollster: Romney favored as candidate to fix the economy

Marketplace Contributor May 17, 2012

David Brancaccio: The White House says President Obama will not allow another down-to-the wire debt ceiling crisis. And Obama vowed to work on a quote “balanced” approach, meaning spending cuts and higher taxes, particularly on the wealthy — something the White House says most Americans support. The man likely to be the Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney says American don’t want higher taxes.

But whose solutions do Americans trust? Let’s look at that as part of our weekly partnership with Gallup. For Attitude Check, joining us now is Frank Newport, Gallup’s editor-in-chief. Good morning, Frank.

Frank Newport: Good morning, David.

Brancaccio: So my fellow Americans, who will do a better job on the economy — Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney? What’d you find?

Newport: That’s a fascinating question, and Romney has the edge, and this is important. Fifty-five percent say if Romney’s elected, the economy will better in four years, and only 46 percent said the economy will be better in four years if Obama’s elected.

Brancaccio: Did people, Frank, give reasons for why they were giving this edge to Romney?

Newport: We didn’t follow up with an open-ended question and say “why?” But we have some other data where we said, “Who would do the better job?” on various dimensions. And Obama wins on likability by over 20 points. But we also said: Who would be the better manager of government? And that’s one where Romney edges Obama as well, so I think part of it may be this image of Romney — although not likeable necessarily, compared to Obama — he’s kind of the cold, calculating, efficient CEO-type manager, and that’s what Americans, it looks like, may think is needed to handle the economy.

Brancaccio: What about the road ahead? When you ask these questions about matters of money to Americans, what are people thinking prospects are for their finances?

Newport: Well you know David, Americans are always more positive about themselves than about the situation “out there.” You know, they like their congressman, they don’t like Congress; they think they have good health care but health care is in a crisis. The same thing happens in the economy. We have 63 percent of Americans in our just-completed poll who said they will be better off financially next year, and only 18 percent say worse off.

Now, that sounds rosy that Americans are usually positive, but that 18 percent worse off is as low as we have seen it going back to about 2003. So the degree that Americans continue to think things are looking better, that certainly helps Obama’s re-election chances.

Brancaccio: Always fascinating. Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup. Thank you very much.

Newport: My pleasure.

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