By Sheldon Alberts - 09/04/12 09:00 AM EDT
A majority of voters believe the country is worse off today than it was four years ago and that President Obama does not deserve reelection, according to a new poll for The Hill.
Fifty-two percent of likely voters say the nation is in “worse condition” now than in September 2008, while 54 percent say Obama does not deserve reelection based solely on his job performance.
The results highlight the depth of voter dissatisfaction confronting Obama as he makes his case for a second term at this week’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
They also strongly suggest Democrats need to convince voters the election should be a choice between Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, rather than a referendum on the president.
Obama’s biggest problem remains voter unhappiness with his handling of the economy.
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Fifty percent of voters said they were “very unsatisfied” with Obama’s stewardship of the economy. Another 8 percent said they were somewhat unsatisfied.
More voters in The Hill’s poll think Romney will win the fall election than think Obama will win — despite state-by-state polls that suggest the president would have an edge in a number of swing states if the election were held today.
The poll found 46 percent of voters believe Romney will win the Nov. 6 election, compared to 43 percent who said they expect Obama to win.
The Hill’s poll was conducted Sept. 2 among 1,000 likely voters by Pulse Opinion Research. It has a 3 percentage point margin of error.
Romney’s campaign on Monday sought to exploit Obama’s vulnerability on the economy by asking voters whether their lives are better now than when Obama became president.
“The president cannot tell you that you’re better off,” GOP vice presidential nominee Paul RyanPaul RyanRyan has 'no idea' who will win election Sunday shows preview: Both sides gear up for debate FULL SPEECH: Obama celebrates African American museum opening MORE said in a speech in North Carolina. “And if we want to improve things, then how would rehiring the same administration do that? It wouldn’t.”
The GOP attacks have been helped along by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who on Sunday answered “no” to the question of whether the country was better off four years after Obama’s election.
O’Malley on Monday reversed himself, saying the nation is “clearly better off.” But O’Malley’s misstep allowed Republicans to go on offense.
The Hill’s polling shows skepticism about the president is entrenched among coveted centrist voters who are key to the election outcome.
Fifty-two percent of centrists said Obama does not deserve reelection based on his job performance, 56 percent are unsatisfied with his handling of the economy and 53 percent feel the country is worse off.
Men (57 percent) are more likely than women (51 percent) to believe Obama does not deserve reelection.
The poll found sharp partisan differences in views about Obama. While 78 percent of Democrats believe the president deserves reelection, 1 in 5 do not believe he should get a second term. A poll for The Hill in early July also found 1 in 5 Democrats feel Obama has changed the nation for the worse as president. Eighty percent of Republicans believe Obama doesn’t deserve reelection, and only 11 percent think he does.
Among “other” voters — those who said they were neither Democrats nor Republicans — 61 percent say Obama does not deserve reelection.
The Obama campaign’s challenges extend to voters of all ages.
Among those aged 18-39 — a voting bloc that helped push Obama to victory in 2008 — 51 percent said the president does not deserve reelection, while 40 percent said he does.
Anti-Obama sentiment is strongest among seniors, the poll found. Sixty-five percent of voters aged 65 and over said Obama shouldn’t get a second term, while 53 percent of voters 40-64 years old feel the same.
Obama is also facing stiff headwinds on the economy among lower-middle-class and middle-class voters.
Among voters earning $40,000 to $60,000 a year, 67 percent said they were not satisfied with the president’s handling of the economy and 62 percent said the country is in worse condition now than in 2008.
Similarly, 58 percent of people earning between $20,000 and $40,000 a year said the country is worse off now, and 66 percent are unhappy with his handling of the economy.
The Hill’s poll’s sample included 51 percent women and 49 percent men. It had a slightly larger sample of Republicans — 36 percent — than Democrats, 34 percent.
Thirty percent of those polled identified themselves as being neither Democrat nor Republican.
Apart from the assessments of Obama and the state of the nation, The Hill poll found Vice President Biden is not considered a major hindrance to Obama’s reelection.
Biden stirred controversy last month when he told a mixed-race audience that Republicans, if they controlled the White House and Congress, would “put y’all back in chains” by deregulating the financial industry.
The poll found just 11 percent of voters overall — and only 6 percent of Democrats — believe Biden will damage Obama’s chance of reelection.
Seventy-one percent of voters overall said Biden’s status as Obama’s running mate will make no difference to the president’s chances of earning a second term.