Less than six months ahead of November's general election, Americans are split between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, according to a poll released Tuesday.
The Washington Post/ABC News survey showed the two candidates statistically tied with 49 percent of Americans backing Obama and 46 percent supporting Romney. When asked which contender would best handle the economy, Obama and Romney were tied at 47 percent.
Asked further about each candidate's character, voters seemed to favor Obama. They gave the Democratic incumbent higher marks on "understanding the economic problems people in this country are having" (48 percent-40 percent), as well as "has the better moral character to serve as president" (52 percent-38 percent).
The gender gap between Obama and Romney continued to persist in Tuesday's survey. Women favored Obama over his GOP rival 51 percent to 44 percent in the poll.
As in almost every national survey, the economy was the No. 1 issue for voters, with 52 percent of respondents saying it was their top concern. All other issues stood in the single digits, with 7 percent saying their top choice was health care and 5 percent naming morals and family values.
While the presidential campaign veered into social issues after Obama publically endorsed same-sex marriage for the first time at the beginning of May, it has largely returned to discussion of the economy and jobs. For the past week and a half, Democrats have hammered away at Romney's record as a private equity executive, saying his role in shutting down plants indicates a wavering commitment to creating jobs.
Americans surveyed for the Washington Post/ABC News poll had an overwhelmingly negative perception of the economy, with 83 percent saying America's economic condition was "not so good" or "poor." That's compared to 17 percent who felt positively about the economy.
Obama's 42 percent approval rating on the economy indicated the issue won't be going away any time soon - while the figure has improved slightly since March, it still lags well behind Obama's overall approval rating, which Tuesday's poll showed standing at 47 percent. However, more Americans (49 percent) say former President George W. Bush carries greater responsibility for the economic state than blame Obama (34 percent).
On other issues, Obama's approval was better. Forty-seven percent of Americans approve of his handing of the war in Afghanistan, and 48 percent registered approval of his record on international affairs.
Those issues, however, ranked near the bottom of Americans' top issue list. Only 1 percent of respondents said Afghanistan was their top issue, though the poll did not ask respondents to name their number two or three most important concerns.
The Washington Post/ABC News poll was taken by telephone from 1,004 adults between May 17 and 20. The sampling error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.