Poll gives Romney lead on economy despite Obama’s Bain attacks

A strong majority of Americans say Mitt Romney’s background in the private sector, including his management at the private equity firm he founded, Bain Capital, would help him make the right decisions on the economy.

According to a new USA Today-Gallup poll, 63 percent viewed Romney’s business background as a strength in handling the country’s economic woes, versus 29 percent who viewed it negatively.


The poll raises questions over the effectiveness of the Obama campaign’s barrage of attacks highlighting instances of outsourcing by companies Bain invested in and businesses that folded or laid off workers after being acquired by the private equity firm.

The Obama campaign has also tried to tie Bain to Romney’s personal wealth, and in particular his foreign bank accounts and investments, claiming that Romney has not been transparent about his finances and should release more than his disclosed two years of tax returns.

The Obama campaign has been challenged on the fairness of those attacks, including by some in the Democratic Party, but according to the poll, most voters don’t view either side’s attacks as unfair. Thirty-six percent said Romney was unfairly attacking President Obama, while 38 percent said Obama was unfairly attacking Romney.

With unemployment mired at 8.2 percent, the Romney campaign has been singularly focused on the message that the presumptive GOP nominee is better qualified to steer the economy. 

Obama has argued that he inherited a once-in-a-generation fiscal mess and has turned it into positive job growth.

A separate Gallup tracking poll also shows the candidates in a dead heat, with Obama edging Romney with 46 percent support to 45. That mirrors the Real Clear Politics average of polls, which shows Obama leading Romney by 1 percent.

While the poll casts doubt on the effectiveness of the Obama campaign ads, there is also evidence that the Romney campaign’s attempt to convince voters Obama is leading a public sector that is overly intrusive on the private sector seems to be working. A record 61 percent said the government is trying to do things that should be left to individuals and free markets, the highest number since Gallup began asking the question two decades ago in 1992.

While the poll gives the edge to Romney on the economy, Obama continues to excel in one area that has been an ongoing weakness for the GOP candidate — likability. Americans say Obama is the more likable candidate by a 2-to-1 margin. Romney has suffered from a low favorability rating throughout the Republican primaries and into the general election.

The poll of 1,030 adults Thursday through Sunday has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.