A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows President Obama maintaining a narrow lead over Mitt Romney less than four months before Election Day.
The president leads 49 to 43 percent in the survey, little changed from his 47 to 43 advantage in June’s poll. It is essentially the same lead Obama has had since October.
The data illustrates challenges for both candidates. Romney appears to be suffering from a likability gap; 12 percent of voters say they don’t like him personally, but approve of his policies; only 2 percent say that about Obama. Thirty-five percent of voters have positive feelings about the ex-governor, 40 percent have negative feelings. (Obama is viewed positively by 49 percent of voters compared to 43 percent with negative views)
For Obama, 22 percent of voters say he is running a negative campaign, compared to only 12 percent for Romney. (34 percent say both, 25 percent neither) This is marked shift for Obama, in 2008, only about 11 percent of voters thought he was running a negative campaign. (This number in part reflects reality; the “hope and change” message of 2008 from the president has been replaced by a more direct contrast with his opponent)
And 43 percent of voters say Romney would do a better job handling the economy, compared to 37 percent who say the president.
According to the poll, Obama leads by 91 points among blacks, 44 among Hispanics, and 15 among women, but trails Romney among voters over 50, white voters and men.
But these numbers and their consistency show how unmoved most voters are, as about 90 percent of Americans essentially have already chosen their candidate. The poll suggests about 8 percent of the electorate is undecided, a number that has also remained largely the same for the last several months.
The next several months include the biggest events of the campaign: Romney’s vice-presidential choice, the two party’s nominating conventions, the three debates and the monthly jobs reports. The latter three in particular could help reshape the election narrative.
Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @perrybaconjr