Republican Mitt Romney has evened it up with President Barack Obama in swing states six months ahead of the US election, with the challenger seen as a better economic steward but Obama more likeable, a new poll showed Monday.
In the 12 battleground states likely to determine the outcome on November 6, the president led Romney 47-45 percent among registered voters, according to the USA Today/Gallup Swing States poll.
That represents a substantial tightening from the nine-point lead Obama enjoyed in late March.
The poll -- USA Today's first since Romney became the de facto Republican nominee last month -- also showed a widening gender gap. Women now support Obama 52-40 percent, while men support Romney 50-42 percent.
That 20 percent gap is up from 12 points in February and 17 points in March, when Democrats hit out against a "war on women" that they said was being waged by Republicans through policies on contraception and proposed health care cuts.
Romney, a former venture capitalist who touts his business experience on the campaign trail, dominated on the economic front, with six in 10 respondents saying he would do well or very well handling the economy, compared with 52 percent for Obama.
In a direct comparison of who would do better on the economy, Romney nipped Obama 47-44 percent.
"You've got a candidate who has just been through the bruising Republican primary and came out somewhat bloodied, so it's pretty remarkable that in these target states governor Romney is doing better than Obama on the biggest issue, the economy," Romney pollster Neil Newhouse told USA Today.
Despite Romney's gains, the survey shows a potentially worrying trend for the ex-governor of Massachusetts: a reversal of voter enthusiasm which had been a Republican asset in recent months.
It said that for the first time, Democrats by 11 percent are more likely to say they are more enthusiastic about voting, a major shift from the 14-point Republican advantage from late last year.
And Obama, by a 27-percent margin, is seen as more likable, according to the survey, which noted that the more likable candidate has won every election since 1980.
"Obama has the softer image dimensions tied up: He's likable, compassionate, feels your pain, relates, understands," said Gallup editor in chief Frank Newport.
Romney by contrast is seen as an "efficient manager" who is "less interested in feeling your pain than telling you how to fix your pain by... doing something about it."
The poll focused on the states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, and had a margin of error of four percentage points.
Source: AFP American Edition