President Barack Obama enters an important campaign week tied with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found on Sunday, leaving the incumbent an opportunity to edge ahead of his opponent at the Democratic National Convention.
With the Democrats set to nominate Obama for a second term this week in Charlotte, North Carolina, the race to the presidential election on Nov. 6 is all knotted up at 45 percent for Obama and 45 percent for Romney among likely voters, the survey found.
The findings were from the seventh day of a rolling online poll conducted for Reuters by Ipsos to judge voters' attitudes around the political conventions.
A week ago, a Reuters/Ipsos poll said Obama led Romney 46 percent to 42 percent. The Republican's own convention last week in Tampa, Florida, gave him a small boost, vaulting him into an even position with Obama but no further.
Now Obama, who is to accept the nomination on Thursday, is poised to get his own convention bounce. Ipsos pollster Julia Clark said she was confident Obama's numbers would improve during his convention.
"The fact that Obama and Romney are still tied signals to me that we're not going to see any sort of sustained bump for Romney," Clark said. "As we go into next week's convention, Romney will struggle to maintain even footing with the president - we'll likely see a shift back towards Obama."
While each candidate won overwhelming support from voters in his own political party, Romney was leading Obama among all-important independent voters by 33 percent to 28 percent, the poll found.
Romney's improvement on key attributes continued on an upward trajectory in the poll. On such issues as he "represents America," "is a good person," and "is eloquent," Romney was essentially tied with Obama. On who is more likable, Romney had improved but still trailed Obama 32 percent to 48 percent, the poll found.
ROMNEY SEEN AS MORE PERSONABLE
Republicans used their convention to play up the former private equity executive's family and personal life.
"To be honest the convention was pretty good for Romney," said Clark. "I think one of the big tests of the Republican convention was to make him more of a human, make him a little more personable, make him more likable. I think they succeeded there."
There has been no real movement in terms of candidate perceptions on any substantive policy areas such as healthcare, or even on which candidate is better in protecting American jobs. This underlines the notion that conventions are about style rather than substance, Clark said.
The poll suggested voters are waiting to hear what Obama has to say about the most pressing issue of the campaign, the U.S. economy and 8.3 percent unemployment.
The survey said 76 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track and 73 percent have a similar belief about jobs in the United States.
On the president's signature issue of his first term, healthcare, 62 percent believe the healthcare system is on the wrong track. Obama led an overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system that Republicans deeply opposed.
Interest in the political conventions is high. The poll found 82 percent of registered voters have seen, heard, or read at least something about the Republican convention.
But this dropped to 73 percent among independents and 66 percent among non-aligned registered voters, those who are undecided about how to vote or who say they will not vote.
This suggests that the groups candidates most need to target are not yet engaging with the electoral process, Clark said.
The rolling poll measures sentiment during the two-week convention season by polling over the previous four days.
For the survey, a sample of 1,441 American registered voters was interviewed online. The precision of the Reuters/Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points for all respondents.
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