New York Times poll of registered voters produces dead heat

A New York Times/CBS poll of 982 registered voters shows Mitt Romney with a statistically insignificant 47-46 lead over President Obama when undecided voters who lean towards a candidate are included. Without “leaners,” the split is 45-43.

As importantly, only 39 percent say they approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, compared to 55 percent who say they disapprove. In April, 44 percent approved and 48 percent disapproved. However, just over half of those polled this time said that the president’s policies are improving the economic picture now (17 percent) or will in the future (34 percent).

The Times observes:

Despite months of negative advertising from Mr. Obama and his Democratic allies seeking to further define Mr. Romney as out of touch with the middle class and representative of wealthy interests, the poll shows little evidence of any substantial nationwide shift in attitudes about Mr. Romney.

But the negative advertising may be keeping Obama afloat, at least for now, considering the extent to which approval of his handling of the economy has fallen. And, as the Times points out, Obama’s ads may be helping him in the swing states where they are concentrated.

But it’s doubtful that negative ads can do the trick over the long haul if voters continue to disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy and if their level of confidence that things will improve diminishes.