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Romney gains ground on Obama on economic issues: poll

Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (back) greets his wife Ann at the conclusion of the first U.S.
Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (back) greets his wife Ann at the conclusion of the first U.S.

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican challenger Mitt Romney has argued for more than a year that he would do a better job of boosting the sluggish U.S. economy than President Barack Obama, and new polling data indicates that voters may be coming around to his point of view.

Four weeks before the November 6 U.S. election, Romney has erased Obama's advantage on a range of pocketbook issues that are foremost on voters' minds, according to Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll figures.

Likely voters now say that the former private equity executive has a better plan for the economy, job creation and the federal budget deficit. They also say Romney would be more effective in Washington.

Obama continues to hold an advantage when it comes to taxes, the Social Security retirement program and protecting American jobs. Obama also still leads on a range of personal issues such as likability and whether he understands regular people.

The online poll, taken over the course of the seven days leading up to Sunday, partially reflects the aftermath of Romney's strong debate performance against Obama in the first of their three face-to-face match-ups.

Obama's advantage had already started to fade before the debate as Romney recovered from a series of campaign missteps. The current findings reflect the underlying reality of a closely divided electorate and Republicans' traditional advantage on fiscal issues, Ipsos pollster Cliff Young said.

"It's a much tighter race and Romney became much more presidential in people's eyes," Young said. "Things are probably back to where they should be."

The Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll has shown Obama's lead fading in a head-to-head match-up of the two candidates since the debate. An update in the head-to-head numbers is expected later on Tuesday. Other polls have shown Obama's lead slipping as well.

Romney gained the most ground on the economic questions that were the focus of last Wednesday's debate.

In the week ended September 30, Obama held a lead of 4.3 percentage points when voters were asked which candidate has a better plan for the economy. Romney now holds a lead of 4.6 percentage points on that question.

On job creation, Romney now leads by 2.4 percentage points, erasing Obama's 5.8 percentage point lead on that issue. The bad numbers for Obama come despite a monthly jobs report last Friday that showed unemployment fell to a nearly four-year low in September.

The two were tied on the question of the federal budget deficit, but Romney now leads by 7.7 percentage points.

Romney has also erased Obama's 4.4 percentage point advantage on which candidate would be more effective in Washington. The two are now tied.

Obama's lead on taxes has fallen from 10.5 percentage points to 4.9 percentage points. His lead on Social Security has fallen from 12.4 percentage points to 6.7 percentage points.

Obama's advantage on personal issues remains intact. His 25 percentage point advantage on likability is essentially unchanged from the week earlier, as is his 14 percentage point advantage on which candidate "understands people like me."

The poll relied on a sample of 1,689 likely voters. The precision of Reuters/Ipsos polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, it has a credibility interval of 5.1 percentage points.

(Editing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Will Dunham)

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