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Obama faces skepticism from swing voters: poll

U.S. President Obama and Vice President Biden in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington
U.S. President Obama and Vice President Biden in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama faces deep skepticism from swing voters who see the Republican party as more in tune with their concerns about government spending, according to a poll released on Tuesday.

These undecided voters, who could determine whether Obama wins re-election next year, believe Republicans are more serious about reducing budget deficits and more aligned with them ideologically, according to the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way.

The poll focused on voters who had backed Obama in the 2008 presidential election but voted for Republican candidates in the 2010 congressional elections. They make up about 20 percent of the electorate in the handful of hotly contested states that will likely dictate the outcome of the 2012 election.

Some 59 percent of these voters haven't decided whether they will vote for Obama or his Republican opponent, the poll found.

Obama and his fellow Democrats could win their support by emphasizing economic growth and painting Republicans as beholden to conservative Tea Party activists, said Third Way's Jim Kessler.

"Obama needs to pull himself and his party closer to them and push the GOP farther away," Kessler said in an interview.

Obama is pushing a $450 billion job-creation bill in an effort to boost the economy and drive down the 9.1 percent unemployment rate as he faces low approval ratings and deep economic unease among voters.

Many economists say higher government spending now would boost growth in the sputtering economy while lawmakers work on a long-term plan to tame the national debt.

Swing voters do not agree with this view, the poll found. Half of those surveyed said reducing the deficit or scaling back regulations would be the most effective way to create jobs, while only 16 percent said that increased spending on construction and innovation would be the best approach.

Those views line up with those held by congressional Republicans. However, swing voters largely back Obama's call to raise taxes on the wealthy to help reduce deficits, the poll found.

The poll interviewed 400 swing voters in 12 battleground states on August 16. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 6.4 percentage points.

Those surveyed were not asked about their support for Obama versus specific Republican presidential candidates.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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