Obama Leads Romney in Poll That Shows 19-Point Gender Gap

A competitive, three-month primary campaign has left Mitt Romney damaged as he prepares for a likely general-election fight with President Barack Obama, a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows.

Obama, 50, holds advantages over Romney, 65, on personal attributes, even as the incumbent remains vulnerable among Americans concerned that the economic recovery is taking too long.

If a general election were held now, registered voters would divide 51 percent for the president and 44 percent for the former Massachusetts governor.

Obama is boosted by his support among women, a constituency that favors him by 19 percentage points over Romney. Among men, Romney has an 8 percentage point advantage. The two candidates are tied among independent voters, a group that can determine the winner of presidential elections.

General elections are fought on a state-by-state basis, so the national figures offer a general measure of the race and aren’t predictive of the outcome. The poll was taken April 5-8 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points on the full sample.

Health Care Advantage

Obama leads Romney on who would do a better job protecting the middle class, handling international affairs and terrorism, and dealing with health-care policy. The only issue tested where Romney did markedly better was on who would deal more effectively with the federal budget deficit.

On economic issues, a potential match-up between the two men is more competitive, with Obama holding a 3 percentage point advantage on who is best to create jobs and Romney holding a 4-point edge on who is best to handle the economy.

The poll shows Americans are split on the question of whether the economy is improving. Almost two-thirds said the country is headed in the wrong direction and one-third said rising gas prices have caused them “serious” hardship.

Obama will speak today in Florida at fundraising events as well as give an address on the “Buffett rule,” a proposal named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett that would boost tax rates paid by households with incomes between $1 million and $2 million, phasing them up to a 30 percent minimum tax rate for those making more than $2 million a year. Romney is scheduled to campaign later today in Delaware and Pennsylvania, where Republican primaries will be held April 24.

-- Editors: Jeanne Cummings, Robin Meszoly

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