Americans tend to see Mitt Romney as better able to handle key issues than President Obama is, particularly those relating to the economy. However, Americans give Obama the edge on most character dimensions, especially basic likability.
Romney has an edge on four of six issues tested in the July 19-22 USA Today/Gallup poll -- all having a significant economic component, including the federal budget deficit, the economy, creating jobs, and taxes. Romney and Obama are tied on healthcare, while Obama's lone lead in the poll is his decided advantage on foreign affairs.
On the other hand, Obama is viewed as more likable, more honest and trustworthy, and better able to understand the problems Americans face than Romney is. Romney's only character advantage of the four included in the poll is for being able to "get things done."
With more than three months to go before Election Day, most voters already feel that there’s little left to learn about the presidential candidates. When it comes to Barack Obama, 90% say they already pretty much know what they need to know about him; just 8% say they need to learn more. A substantial majority (69%) also says they already mostly know what they need to know about Mitt Romney. Only about a quarter (28%) say they need to learn more to get a clear impression of Romney. Combining these two questions, fully two-thirds of voters say they already know as much as they need to about both presidential candidates.Sean Trende writes:
These findings go a long way toward explaining the 2012 contest. In the referendum model of the election, voters ask themselves two questions: First, do I want the president to be re-elected? Second, is the challenger so unacceptable that I simply can’t bring myself to vote for him?
It is a real question whether the Romney campaign gets this. Throughout the primary process, it focused relentlessly on tearing down its opponents. Thus far, it has done the same in the general election. Maybe Romney doesn’t have that much of a record of accomplishment as governor, outside of the radioactive health care law. Or maybe the campaign simply isn’t capable of telling a compelling, positive story about the nominee.
Regardless, these are parts of his biography that simply must be filled in if Romney wants to win, along with his activities turning around the Salt Lake City Olympics. (Does anyone outside of the political world even know about that?) If Romney can do this, he’ll have an excellent shot at winning this race. It might not even be close. But if he can’t, he will probably become the first presidential challenger in modern history to pass Step 1 of the referendum model, but fail Step 2.