Obama Wins in Global Poll Showing Investors Resist Gingrich

US President Barack Obama
Barack Obama, US president. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

U.S. investors are rooting for Mitt Romney and those outside the country are for Barack Obama. Newt Gingrich is generating little enthusiasm anywhere.

The expectation in markets of every region is that Obama will be re-elected president in November, an outlook shared by 72 percent of respondents worldwide in a quarterly Bloomberg Global Poll of 1,209 Bloomberg customers who are investors, traders or analysts, conducted Jan. 23-24.

“The recent improvements of the economy will help Obama’s re-election” along with “the lack of coalition among the Republicans,” says Jason Vieira, an international analyst for the brokerage firm Cruzeiro do Sul Corretora in Sao Paulo and a poll respondent.

As U.S. growth strengthens, global investors are warming to Obama’s economic stewardship, with 40 percent of them optimistic about the impact of his policies on the business climate, up from 30 percent who said so just seven weeks ago.

In a potential election match-up between Obama, 50, and Romney, 64, a former private equity executive, global respondents are split, with 41 percent choosing each as better for the world economy. U.S. investors sided 3-to-1 with the Republican and those outside the U.S. 2-to-1 with Obama.

“Customers outside the U.S. not only know President Obama better than Mitt Romney, they like him a lot better, and they have shown that since the beginning of the Bloomberg Global Poll,” says J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., the Des Moines, Iowa, company that conducted the poll for Bloomberg.

Backing Obama

Faced with a choice between the Democratic incumbent and Republican Gingrich, 68, on who would be better for the world economy, global respondents back Obama 52 percent to 25 percent. Those in the U.S. give Gingrich a 44 percent plurality against 35 percent for Obama with 21 percent unable to tell how they would resolve the dilemma.

Poll participants are divided over whether Romney’s private equity experience better equips him to manage the U.S. economy from the Oval Office. Forty-five percent say it would, compared with 41 percent who say it wouldn’t. U.S. respondents place greater weight on Romney’s investment background, with almost two-thirds of them considering it an asset.

“Romney’s financial bona fides might seem like a natural fit for these investors, yet he has not convinced them his stewardship would be better for the global economy than the current president,” Selzer says.

Attack Ads

On the campaign trail, Romney has stressed his background as co-founder of Boston-based Bain Capital LLC to claim competence to strengthen the U.S. economy.

Allies of Gingrich sponsored a television advertising campaign attacking the impact of leveraged buyouts that Romney managed throughout his years at the company.

Even as poll respondents are split over whether experience in private equity is a credential for the presidency, 7 of 10 say the industry’s business practices generally have a beneficial impact on the economy.

Investors in all regions consider the tax rate Romney has paid on his income too low, a view held by two-thirds of respondents worldwide and 56 percent in the U.S.

While Romney didn’t release tax returns showing he paid a 13.9 percent rate on income of $21.6 million in 2010 until the second day of the poll, he had already said he paid a rate of about 15 percent.

Changing Assessment

Investors have narrowly reversed their assessment of the impact of an Obama re-election on U.S. financial markets since the last poll in December. His re-election is viewed as favorable by 44 percent against 40 percent unfavorable. In the last poll, a second Obama term was considered beneficial to the markets by 38 percent of respondents compared with 44 percent who said it would be a drag.

Since the last poll was completed Dec. 6, estimates for U.S. growth have increased, unemployment has declined and the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index had risen 5.4 percent as of the market’s close in New York yesterday.

The median forecast for fourth-quarter growth is 3.1 percent, up from 1.8 percent in the previous quarter, according a Bloomberg survey of economists.

Forty-eight percent of poll respondents predict the U.S. will be among the world’s best-performing markets this year, the highest rating for the country since the poll began in 2009 and more than twice that of Brazil and China, the second-ranked markets.

Giving Obama Credit

Respondents are divided by region in granting Obama credit for the economy’s improved performance. Seventy-three percent of those in the U.S. say he doesn’t deserve credit; 54 percent of respondents outside the U.S. say he does.

The general opinion of Obama has improved, with 51 percent of global respondents viewing him favorably compared with 48 who said so in December. Still, only 27 percent of those in the U.S. have a positive opinion of the president.

Investors are split about evenly on Romney, 38 percent favorable against 40 percent unfavorable and 22 percent with no opinion. Among those in the U.S., 61 percent say they like the former Massachusetts governor.

Fifty-nine percent of poll respondents express a negative opinion of Gingrich versus 17 percent with a positive opinion. U.S. respondents have an even more unfavorable view of the onetime U.S. House speaker: 69 percent say they don’t like him.

Investors view members of Congress from both parties unfavorably. Sixty-four percent have a negative opinion of congressional Republicans and 58 percent a negative view of congressional Democrats.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

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