WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama extended his lead over Republican Mitt Romney to seven percentage points because of increased support from independent voters and some optimism over the U.S. economy, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday.
Obama was backed by 49 percent of registered voters in a telephone poll conducted from May 3-7, compared to 42 percent who supported his likely rival in November’s presidential election. In April, the poll showed Obama leading Romney 47 percent to 43 percent.
Obama’s overall approval rating among the 1,131 adults surveyed was 50 percent, up one point from last month, while 47 percent said they disapproved of how he handles his presidency.
“The economy continues to chug along. Presidential ratings are correlated fairly closely with economic optimism and when the public sees things like unemployment going down and other signs of economic recovery, they are more inclined towards voting for the status quo – which in this case is to keep the incumbent in office,” said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark.
The poll showed a jump in the number of independent voters who approved of the way Obama is doing his job. Forty eight percent approved and 40 percent disapproved in May compared to 37 percent who approved and 57 percent who disapproved in April.
“Independents obviously are going to be critical in this election,” said Clark. “That independent approval jump is absolutely significant. It contributes to his jump in approval month on month. We’re talking increments here, but where Obama is right now, the increments matter a lot.
Among the 959 registered voters surveyed in the poll, a majority said Obama was stronger than Romney on healthcare, Afghanistan and the war on terror. Romney had a one point advantage over Obama on immigration.
The survey, conducted over landlines and cell phones, is considered accurate within 2.9 percentage points for the total sample. Among registered voters it has a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points.
(Reporting by Deborah Charles; Editing by Vicki Allen)