At first blush, these numbers are deeply disturbing. But when we look more closely at the survey – and especially at the way the question is phrased – the results may not be all that surprising. The Gallup pollsters explain:
Further, Romney's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination may have limited his ability to distinguish himself from Obama on managing the U.S. economy. It is also possible that some respondents interpret the question wording, which asked Americans to rate each on his ability to "recommend the right thing for the economy," as more of a philosophical position than one involving managing the economy. That is, it is possible that some respondents feel Obama has better ideas for the economy even if they also believe Romney would do a better job of actually managing the economy.
This isn’t the first time phraseology has affected the outcome of a public opinion poll. Remember during the heady days of President Obama’s controversial birth control mandate? Two supposedly reputable polling firms – Rasmussen and PPP – reached opposite conclusions about how Catholic voters view the requirement that forces religious institutions to pay for drugs and services they find morally objectionable. Subtle differences in question wording and emphasis, as Guy noted at the time, had an enormous influence on how Catholics viewed the debate. Nevertheless, it should not go unmentioned that an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Thursday showed 40 percent of registered voters think Mitt Romney has “good ideas to improve the economy.” By contrast, only 34 percent said President Obama does. In other words, given the all the confusing and conflicting polling data, I think it’s important to pay attention to the way questions are phrased.
If anything, however, the Gallup survey should force Mitt Romney to reflect on whether or not his message on jobs and the economy is resonating with voters. Clearly, at least according to this particular poll, it might not be.