April 19 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama holds a small lead over presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll showing a tight contest fueled by voter discontent with the president’s handling of the economy.
Obama drew support from 46 percent of registered voters and held a large advantage among women. Romney was backed by 42 percent in the poll and held slight edges over the president on the economy, creating jobs and dealing with gasoline prices and immigration.
More troublesome for Obama, the poll, conducted April 11-17, found voters unhappy with his handling of the economy, with 56 percent saying they disapprove compared with 38 percent who approve.
The results suggest voters view Obama and Romney along lines similar to the partisan differences that have marked other close elections of the recent past, said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Hamden, Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Obama “has a big lead among women and is seen as the candidate most in tune with their needs,” Brown said in a statement released with the poll. “He is seen as more in touch with average Americans,” and “Romney seems to hold an edge on the economy -- the top issue of the campaign -- and holds his own against the incumbent on being a strong leader.”
Sixty-one percent said Romney has strong leadership qualities, compared with 60 percent for Obama -- a statistically insignificant difference in a poll whose margin of error is plus or minus 1.9 percentage points. Quinnipiac surveyed 2,577 voters.
Obama holds a 10-point advantage among women in the poll. He was backed by 49 percent compared with Romney’s 39 percent. Obama trails slightly with men, with 43 percent supporting him compared with Romney’s 46 percent.
The racial gap is wider, with Romney leading Obama among white voters 52 percent to 36 percent, while Obama bests the Republican among blacks, who support him 94 percent to 3 percent. Obama also leads among Hispanics, with 64 percent supporting the president compared with 24 percent for Romney.
The poll found that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who became a Romney supporter last year after declining entreaties from Republican leaders to challenge him for the nomination, is the best-known and best-liked of Romney’s potential vice presidential choices.
Thirty-one percent called Christie a good choice compared with 18 percent who disagreed and 49 percent who said they didn’t have an opinion. He drew support from 33 percent of independent voters, who could form a crucial swing bloc in November, with 18 percent of them saying he wouldn’t be a good selection.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, also mentioned as possible running mates for Romney, were next in line behind Christie, although not as well-known, with 58 percent saying they had “no opinion” of them.
Rubio drew support from 24 percent of all voters surveyed and 27 percent of independents, while Ryan was labeled a good choice by 23 percent overall and 25 percent of independents.
Other vice presidential prospects proved lesser known among voters, drawing “no opinion” counts above 60 percent.
“At this point, Christie, who recently said he would not rule out running with Romney, has an edge with the public, but the vice presidency goes to the winner of an election with one voter -- Mitt Romney,” Brown said.
Running Mate Search
Romney’s campaign has announced that senior adviser Beth Myers, his former gubernatorial chief of staff and 2008 campaign manager, would run his search for a running mate.
Christie told reporters April 17 that, while “I’m not looking to do it,” it would be “extraordinarily arrogant” of him not to listen to Romney if he were to ask him to join the Republican presidential ticket. If “Mitt Romney calls and wants to discuss it with me, I will sit down and talk with Governor Romney about it,” he said.
Rubio has repeatedly dismissed speculation that he would be Romney’s pick. “That’s not what I want to be; that’s not what I intend to be, and that’s not going to happen,” he told Fox News on March 27 when he endorsed Romney.
Ryan told the Wall Street Journal’s website in an April 11 video interview that he hasn’t considered being Romney’s running mate, saying, “It’s his decision months from now, not mine, so why spend my time thinking about it?”
Voters rated Obama more favorably than Romney on women’s issues -- 52 percent said he would do a better job compared with 32 percent for Romney.
The president also fared better on foreign policy, preferred by 46 percent compared with 40 percent for Romney.
Romney surpassed the president on handling of the economy, 47 percent to 43 percent; on creating jobs, 45 percent to Obama’s 42 percent; on gas prices, 44 percent to 31 percent; and on immigration, 43 percent to 39 percent. The two scored equally on taxes and health care.
To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Hirschfeld Davis in Washington at or Jdavis159@bloomberg.net.
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