The economy remains Obama's top liability. Only 3 of 10 adults say the country is headed in the right direction and 55 percent disapprove of his handling of the economy - the highest level detected in AP-GfK polls this year.
"I'm not going to vote for Obama," said Raymond Back, a 60-year-old manufacturing plant manager from North Olmsted, Ohio. "It's just the wrong thing to do. I don't know what Romney is going to do, but this isn't the right way."
Yet, in a measure of Romney's own vulnerabilities, even some voters who say they support Romney believe the president will still be reelected. Of all adults polled, 56 percent believe Obama will win a second term. And despite three months of declining job creation that have left the public increasingly glum, Romney has not managed to seize the economic issue from the president, with registered voters split virtually evenly on whether Romney or Obama would do a better job improving it.
The polling numbers come as no surprise to either camp. Both Romney and Obama advisers have anticipated a close contest, driven largely by economic conditions. The Obama camp is busy trying to define Romney, hoping it is reaching more independents like Doss Comer, 58, of Jacksonville, N.C., who said he would vote for Obama again despite the lagging economy.
"I think we are on the wrong track," he said. "We're not getting anywhere. We're not growing. The unemployment rate just spiked up again." But, he added: "I don't trust Romney because of what he's doing. He's telling his business experience, that he was an investor in business. . . . I don't think he has the right background any more than Obama."
Besides weak job growth and still high unemployment, Obama is at the mercy of European countries struggling with a debt crisis that has already sent ripples across the Atlantic. Indicators released Thursday held bad news for hiring and for home sales, a day after the Federal Reserve downgraded its outlook for the economy.
For all that, and with preferences for November in a virtual tie, a majority of people believe Obama will still be reelected, a shift from an even split on the question seven months ago. In December, 21 percent of Republicans said they thought Obama would win reelection; that has risen to 31 percent now. And among independents, the share saying Obama will win has climbed from 49 percent to 60 percent. Among Democrats, it was 75 percent in both polls.
The Associated Press-GfK Poll was conducted June 14-18 by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,007 adults nationwide, including 878 registered voters. Results from the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points; it is 4.2 points for registered voters.