In the latest NBC-WSJ poll conducted April 13-17, we find a closely divided electorate as we begin the general election phase of the presidential race between presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney and President Obama. The president’s approval (49 approve – 46 disapprove) among all adults and voters’ preference for control of Congress (44 GOP-controlled – 46 DEM-controlled) are statistically break even, while 52{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of respondents disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy.

On the presidential match-up, Obama leads Romney 49-43 among all registered voters. Sixty-seven percent (67{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of registered voters are self-described “high interest” voters, that is they rate their interest in the 2012 election as a 9 or 10 on a scale of 1-10. Among these high interest voters Romney leads by three points, 49-46, at this early stage of the campaign.

Looking closer at these self-described high interest voters, we find that compared to April 2008 Republicans are more interested in the campaign (74{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Now – 70{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in 2008), casting serious doubt on the idea that the GOP primary lowered interest in the campaign. Democrat’s interest, meanwhile is lower than in 2008 by 18 points (64{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} now – 82{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in 2008). Looking at interest by age, we find 75{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of seniors, who today are more likely to vote Republican, are “high interest” voters compared to just 45{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of 18-34 year olds, traditional Democratic voters.

The poll shows strong indications that Mitt Romney is solidifying his image among the Republican core. GOP Primary voters moved from 58{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Positive to 70{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Positive, Tea Party Supporters moved from 45{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} to 66{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Positive, Conservatives from 44{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} to 56{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Positive, and White Southern Voters from 36{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} to 48{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Positive over the last month. And, Romney’s image is moving to a net positive or even from a net negative with important segments of a potential winning Republican coalition, including Suburbanites, Blue-collar workers, White-collar workers, White working class, Retirees, and $75K+ income households.

When asked who will be better on a list of attributes Romney outperforms Obama on “having good ideas for how to improve the economy” (40{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Romney – 34{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Obama) and “changing business as usual in Washington” (36 Romney – 29 Obama).

The percentage of Americans who feel “Barack Obama’s health care plan” is a “bad idea” (46{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) is as high as it was the Summer of 2010, with nearly half of Americans (49{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) now saying they want to eliminate and repeal it.

We’re seeing a slow decline in the positive image of the Occupy Wall Street Movement with fewer voters supporting it (16{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) than in January (24{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) and December (24{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}). A majority (51{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of Americans say the Occupy Movement has run its course and serves a less important purpose. Only 43{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Americans think the same about the Tea Party.

NBC News / Wall Street Journal — April 13-17, 2012 (PDF Format)

Public Opinion Strategies