NEW BRUNSWICK — As the Republican National Convention begins in Tampa, New Jersey voters give President Barack Obama a 14-point lead over former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Among likely voters polled just before the GOP convention, 51 percent say they would vote for Obama while 37 percent support Romney. Another 6 percent prefer someone else, and 5 percent are not sure.
Obama holds his lead despite the fact that a majority of likely voters (57 percent) thinks the country is on the wrong track; 36 percent say it is going in the right direction. The key for Obama is that voters are much more positive about him personally: 54 percent hold a favorable impression while 39 percent view him unfavorably. Voters dislike Romney – only 38 percent view him favorably, while 49 percent are unfavorable.
Easily the most important issue in the election is the economy and jobs, named by 62 percent of likely voters. The president leads Romney as the candidate who can best address this issue. The federal budget deficit is a distant second at 10 percent, followed by Social Security and Medicare at 8 percent. Voters see Obama as better able to handle the economy by 46 percent to 42 percent, but Romney has a strong edge on the budget, 68 percent to 12 percent. Obama is favored on Social Security and Medicare, 73 percent to 14 percent.
Voters’ most important candidate quality is leadership (29 percent), followed by “shares my values” (18 percent) and “cares about people like me” (17 percent). Voters who care most about leadership say they will vote for Romney over Obama, 54 percent to 34 percent. But Obama wins on values, 49 percent to 39 percent and overwhelms Romney on caring, 82 to 13 percent.
“The president leads in New Jersey primarily because of his personal qualities,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Voters like him better and feel he shares their values and cares about them. While Romney keeps it closer on the hard issue of the economy, and wins easily on leadership, voters generally prefer to support someone they like over someone they don’t.”
Results are from a poll of 916 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Aug 23 – 25. Within this sample 710 respondents are identified as likely voters and are the subjects of this release. The likely voter sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.