Poll: Voters optimistic economy will improve

Voters are optimistic the economy will improve in the next year, but still hold doubts on President Obama’s economic policies, a new USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday finds.

Likely voters in the U.S. think the economy is improving already, giving Obama an edge as the incumbent. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed believe they will be "better off" next time this year and 58 percent predict good economic conditions in a year.

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But the findings also suggest greater confidence in presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s approach to managing the economic recovery.

Romney continues to take a slight lead when it comes to expectations about the economy, his main campaign issue. According to the survey, more people believe the economy would get better over the next year under Romney compared to under Obama: 55 to 46 percent. 

In addition, 27 percent believe the economy would get worse in Romney's first term, compared with 37 percent saying it would be worse in a second Obama term.

An AP-GfK poll released last week had similar results, finding four in 10 believing the economy will get better over the next year, with 22 percent saying it would get worse.

For the first time, the two candidates also mirror each other when it comes to their favorability ratings. Romney earned a favorable rating of 50 percent compared to Obama's 52 percent. Similarly even, Romney's unfavorability is 41 percent compared to 46 percent for Obama.

But when it comes to the presidential election, President Obama retains the best odds over his likely competitor Mitt Romney, beating Romney 56 percent to 36 in voter predictions for who will actually win in November.

The poll also found voters more likely to vote for the Republican than the Democrat in congressional races this November. 

According to the USA Today/Gallup poll, 50 percent of those surveyed indicated they are more likely to vote for the GOP in congressional races, compared to 44 percent who are more likely to vote for the Democrat. It was the first time the GOP took the lead according to USA Today/Gallup, which found Democrats in the lead last August.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 points.