Romney has Advantage in Economic Issues but Obama has Advantage in Personal Characteristics

HIGH POINT, N.C., Sept. 21, 2012 A new HPU Poll has tracked the opinions of registered voters in North Carolina regarding major issues as well as personal characteristics of the two leading presidential candidates, President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney.

The results show that on major issues, registered voters say that Romney would do a better job of improving economic conditions and lowering gas prices while Obama would do a better job at preserving Medicare and Social Security as well as protecting the U.S. from foreign threats.

The poll also shows Obama with some significant advantages amongst registered voters when it comes to personal characteristics. Registered voters selected Obama over Romney when they were asked which candidate the phrases “is a strong leader,” “connects well with ordinary people,” and “has good judgment in a crisis” fit best. Respondents said the phrase “understands the economy” fits Romney better by 47 percent compared to Obama at 44 percent.

Major issues – Registered voters

Now I am going to read a list of phrases.  Regardless of who you support, which of the presidential candidates, Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, do you think would do the best job of handling each of these issues:

Improving economic conditions:
Obama – 44 percent
Romney – 49 percent
(Don’t know/Refuse) – 8 percent

Creating jobs:
Obama – 47 percent
Romney – 46 percent
(Don’t know/Refuse) – 7 percent

Protecting Social Security:
Obama – 53 percent
Romney – 39 percent
(Don’t know/Refuse) – 7 percent

Preserving Medicare:
Obama – 54 percent
Romney – 39 percent
(Don’t know/Refuse) – 7 percent

Protecting the U.S. from foreign threats:
Obama – 52 percent
Romney – 42 percent
(Don’t know/Refuse) – 7 percent

Lowering gas prices:
Obama – 33 percent
Romney – 44 percent
(Don’t know/Refuse) – 24 percent

(For registered voters, n = 448, margin of sampling error is approximately 4.7 percent, percentages may not total 100 due to rounding)

“Patterns we are seeing on which candidates are preferred on the issues are about the same, but President Obama’s approval rating has improved,” says Sadie Leder, associate director of the HPU Poll. “Even as Gov. Romney still shows strength on many of the economic issues, President Obama continues to have the trust of many voters on issues like Social Security and Medicare.”

Candidate personal characteristics – Registered voters

Now I am going to read another list of phrases. Please tell me if you think each phrase better describes Barack Obama or Mitt Romney…

Strong leader:
Obama – 48 percent
Romney – 40 percent
(Don’t know/Refuse) – 12 percent

Connects well with ordinary people:
Obama – 68 percent
Romney – 23 percent
(Don’t know/Refuse) – 9 percent

Has middle class values:
Obama – 58 percent
Romney – 32 percent
(Don’t know/Refuse) – 11 percent

Honest and truthful:
Obama – 45 percent
Romney – 35 percent
(Don’t know/Refuse) – 20 percent

Good judgment in a crisis:
Obama – 53 percent
Romney – 36 percent
(Don’t know/Refuse) – 11 percent

Understands the economy:
Obama – 44 percent
Romney – 47 percent
(Don’t know/Refuse) – 9 percent

Takes action rather than just talking:
Obama – 45 percent
Romney – 43 percent
(Don’t know/Refuse) – 13 percent

Willing to work with the other party:
Obama – 50 percent
Romney – 36 percent
(Don’t know/Refuse) – 14 percent

“Voters apply both their views of candidate personal characteristics and perceived competence on particular issues to their vote choices,” says Martin Kifer, director of the HPU Poll. “These findings give us insight into how registered voters view these two candidates on these key issues and traits.”

(For registered voters, n = 448, margin of sampling error is approximately 4.7 percent, percentages may not total 100 due to rounding)

The High Point University Survey Research Center fielded the survey from and Sept. 8 to Sept. 13 and Sept. 15 to Sept. 18, 2012. The responses came from 515 adults with landline and cellular telephones in North Carolina selected by a Random Digit Dial (RDD) method giving the survey a margin of sampling error of approximately 4.4 percentage points. The findings in this release are based on a registered voter subsample of 448 respondents. Registered voters responded yes to two questions: These days, many people are so busy they can’t find time to register to vote, or move around so often they don’t get a chance to re-register. Are you NOW registered to vote in your precinct or election district here in North Carolina or haven’t you been able to register so far? AND Are you absolutely certain that you are registered to vote, or is there a chance that your registration has lapsed because you moved or for some other reason? The estimated margin of sampling error for the registered voter subsample is 4.7 percentage points. For smaller subsamples the margin of sampling error is larger. The data is weighted toward population estimates for age and landline and cell phone usage. In addition to sampling error, factors such as question wording and other methodological choices in conducting survey research can introduce additional error into the findings of opinion polls.

Further results and methodological details from the survey and can be found at the Survey Research Center website at or from Dr. Martin Kifer, director of the HPU Poll, at or 336-841-9333

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Pam Haynes
Media Relations Manager

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