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How Voters Feel About Economy Plays Key Role in Presidential Choice

New polling from Marquette University shows that Wisconsinites still suffering the effects of the recession favor Romney over Obama.

If the presidential election were held today, President Barack Obama would win in Wisconsin over Republican Mitt Romney by about 8 percentage points — 51 to 43 percent.

But a closer look into the numbers revealed Wednesday in a new poll from Marquette University Law School shows a distinct divide among voters and whom they support when that question is linked to how they see the economy.

It boils down to this:

Survey respondents who said the recession really hasn't taken a toll on their personal finances back Obama, while Romney has an edge over those still hurting from the economic turn-down.

Obama beats Romney by 51 percent to 44 percent among respondents who say  they were affected by the recession but have now recovered. And among those who say the recession hasn't really hurt them back Obama by 54 percent to 40 percent.

For those who were affected and have not recovered, Romney is their candidate by a small margin, 48 percent to 45 percent.

The poll results were released as part of the school's monthly "On the Issues" program with broadcaster Mike Gousha and Professor Charles Franklin. A sample of 810 likely voters were reached via land line and cell phone to answer questions between July 5 and 8. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.

"There is a very personal aspect for those who have suffered because of the recession and have not gotten any gains," noted Franklin, director of the poll. "They are fertile ground for the Romney campaign."

Views on the country's economic recovery also make a difference in how Wisconsin voters might lean come November. Those who think the economy is better than a year ago support Obama over Romney 77 percent to 15 percent. Those who think things will be better a year from now back the president by a 66 percent to 28 percent margin.

Likely voters more in the middle who see the economy as the same now and in the next year also support the president by double-digit margins.

But for those who think the economy is worse or expect it to get worse in the next year, Romney is their choice — 72 percent to 24 percent, and 71 percent to 22 percent respectively.

"Is it unusual to see President Obama leading in the state when so many think the economy is worse?" Gousha asked.

Yes and no, Franklin answered.

"It depends on how you do the math," he said. "Looking at it one way is that 64 percent of voters say the economy is better or the same. Or you can look at it as 75 percent say the economy is the same or worse."

Voter income levels are also tied to which candidate survey participants support.

Romney wins over Obama — 49 percent to 46 percent — with voters who make over $75,000 a year. Those in the bottom and middle third income levels support Obama over Romney, 61 to 33 and 52 to 45 percent, respectively.

"Income is related to Republican votes and that shows up in our polls as well," Franklin said.

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