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Obama vs. Romney: Is it the economy, stupid?
An examination of opinion poll trends

Are you able to make sense of the barrage of opinion poll data that is currently being published in the lead up to the US presidential election on 6 November? Bruce Stokes, Director of Pew Global Economic Attitudes at the Pew Research Center, sheds light on the poll trends and assesses to what extent issues such as the economy will be deciding factors when voters approach the ballot box.

In 1992, when Bill Clinton ran for president, his mantra was “It’s the economy, stupid!”. He believed that joblessness and slow growth were the only issues that concerned voters. In 2012, American voters again tell pollsters that the economy is the most important national challenge as they decide their vote. Nevertheless, non-economic concerns may ultimately determine who becomes the next president of the US.

Many voters, especially those in the swing states that may ultimately determine the outcome of the election, say they trust Republican candidate Mitt Romney more than president Barack Obama to do a better job dealing with the economy, unemployment and the budget deficit. But personality traits may also play a decisive role. And voters strongly think Obama better understands ordinary Americans, is more honest and consistent.

Moreover, in swing states, women say it is abortion and equal pay for equal work that are more important issues than the economy. And Obama holds a significant lead among female voters who, in the 2008 US presidential election, out-voted men by 10 million votes. So, on 6 November 2012, it will again be the economy, stupid. But the outcome of the election may also depend on character and women’s issues. Bruce Stokes, 28 October 2012

You can view Mr Stokes's insightful charts updated for the OECD Observer by clicking here

Visit www.pewresearch.org

Visit www.oecd.org/unitedstates and www.oecdforum.org

©OECD Observer No 293, Q4 2012