By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times –
WASHINGTON — Reflecting recent strengthening of consumer confidence, a new poll shows more voters than a month ago expect the economy to improve over the coming year.
Nearly half of registered voters — 45 percent — said they expected the economy to get better in the next 12 months, according to results of a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Monday. That’s up from 42 percent a month ago.
And despite looming tax increases, pessimism about the economy was remarkably low. Just 9 percent of voters said they expected the economy to worsen in the next year, down from 18 percent a month earlier.
The 9 percent figure was the lowest for any Wall Street Journal poll dating back to 1993, the publication said.
Overall, the poll put the presidential race at a dead heat, with President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each registering 47 percent. The tie was a big gain for Romney, who trailed Obama by 5 percentage points a month ago and 3 percentage points in late September.
Voters in the poll gave Romney the edge on the economy, with 46 percent saying he would do better on economic issues, compared to 40 percent for Obama. A month ago, the candidates were tied on that issue at 43 percent each.
Improvements in the housing market and the unemployment rate appear to offset worries about large tax increases and government spending cuts set for January, often called the fiscal cliff. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey jumped this month to its highest level in five years.
The unemployment rate unexpectedly dropped in September to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent the previous month, leading to some of the renewed optimism in the Journal/NBC poll.
Asked if the new data were a reason for optimism, 47 percent said yes and 49 percent said no. Those figures are an improvement from a month earlier, when 42 percent of voters said that U.S. unemployment data were a reason for optimism and 52 percent said they weren’t.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the poll had a margin of error of 3.43 percentage points for likely voters.