"That was my first time voting and I just didn't really care about it back then," he admits.
The poll shows most Americans say they have a good idea of what each candidate would do if elected, and voters who know a good deal about both men tilt toward Romney. Still 59 percent in this group expect Obama to win a second term.
Romney lost his summertime edge on the economy as his campaign was distracted by criticism of his hasty response to the Obama administration's handling of the eruption of violence in Egypt and Libya last week and by his failure to mention the war in Afghanistan or thank the troops in his prime-time convention speech. Now, he's trying to explain his "inelegant" comments about Americans who are dependent on government.
"This has not been the best three weeks in the history of American politics for the Romney campaign," allows GOP consultant Rich Galen. But he said the most significant trend is that the economy remains "a great weight around the ankles of Obama."
Democratic consultant Chris Lehane, meanwhile, zeroes in on the significance of Obama's job approval rating edging back up above 50 percent. Fifty-two percent of likely voters approved of how Obama's handling his job, as did 56 percent of all adults. Further, 42 percent of Americans think the country is heading in the right direction, up from figures in the low- to mid-30s over the summer.
"If you were buying a stock and you were looking at the underlying trends, you would be putting your futures on Obama," Lehane said.
The Associated Press-GfK Poll was conducted Sept. 13-17, 2012, by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,512 adults nationwide, including 1,282 registered voters and 807 likely voters. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points, for registered voters it is 3.4 percentage points and likely voters it is 4.3 percentage points.
AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius and AP writers Stacy A. Anderson and Josh Lederman contributed to this report.
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