By Alina Selyukh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama remained ahead of Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney in a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday, maintaining a boost in popularity that followed the Democratic National Convention.
Of the 1,419 likely voters polled online over the previous four days, 47 percent said they would vote for Obama and 43 percent for Romney if the November 6 U.S. election were held today.
The president's margin over Romney in the daily rolling poll was unchanged from Saturday's numbers, turning up the heat on Republican strategists who were hoping for a more muted post-convention "bounce" for Obama in the wake of Friday's release of weak employment numbers.
"It means (Democrats) are on good footing going into the rest of the election," Ipsos pollster Julia Clark said.
Obama's lead already was more sustained than a smaller and shorter-lived boost that Romney enjoyed after the Republican convention finished in Tampa, Florida on August 30, Clark said. The Democratic convention ran through Thursday night in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"The task is now to stay on the message as we're still quite a ways away from the election," Clark said, reiterating her prediction that the gap in poll numbers between Obama and Romney is likely to narrow and stay close up to November 6.
Senior advisers to Romney rejected the idea that they would panic after several polls showed the former Massachusetts governor losing in key swing states, saying such results reflected the recent Democratic convention and not the ongoing tight race.
"An incumbent president who is below 50 percent in the polls is in a very bad place," one senior Romney adviser said.
Another adviser said, "if we're at 47-45 (with Obama leading) going into the Thursday before the election, I'd be very comfortable we'd win."
DIRECTION OF JOBS, ECONOMY
What Romney advisers are banking on is Americans' feelings about Obama's handling of the U.S. economy.
"Mitt has improved his standing in battleground states and is positioned perfectly on the issue of the economy with swing voters, who are so down on President Obama's performance in office," the first senior adviser to Romney said.
Sunday's Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Romney leading in popularity among registered independent voters, with 35 percent of them saying they would vote for him. Obama had 31 percent.
But asked which of the two "will protect American jobs," 32 percent of independent registered voters picked Obama, while 27 percent sided with Romney, according to Sunday's results.
Among all the 1,660 registered voters surveyed, Obama scored 42 percent compared to Romney's 35 percent.
Obama's ranking in that category has climbed steadily over the past two weeks of the daily poll, starting with 34 percent on August 28, reaching 40 percent on September 7 and peaking Sunday.
"The public view of the economy is much more about personal perception than reality," Clark said, explaining that few people pay close attention to numbers or statistics. "The fact that the dialogue is in the public sphere and Obama has been defending his record, it's possible a little bit of that is sticking."
At the same time, 72 percent of registered voters surveyed said the national economy and national deficit were on the wrong track, while 66 percent said the same about jobs and unemployment and 57 percent about the direction of things in the country in general, according to Sunday's poll numbers.
Asked how they felt about Obama, 54 percent of registered voters were favorable. Romney's favorability trailed at 49 percent.
Sunday's findings wrap up a series of daily rolling polls aimed at gauging sentiment during the two weeks of party conventions. For the survey, a sample of registered voters was interviewed online from September 5-9.
The precision of Reuters/Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points for all respondents.
(Additional reporting by Sam Youngman in Boston; Editing by Alistair Bell)