Obama has commanding lead over Romney in Westchester, poll says
VideosRomney: Obama campaign using 'silly word games' Obama: Romney suffering from 'Romnesia' Final debate set up
GalleriesMitt Romney's run for president Where Obama and Romney stand on issues Celebrities who are Republican, conservative
President Barack Obama is getting a lackluster report card on the economy and four other key issues even though he handily leads GOP challenger Mitt Romney in Westchester County and is within striking distance in Rockland County, according to a new Siena College poll commissioned by Newsday.
The poll, released as the candidates prepare for their final debate Monday night, shows that though Obama leads Romney by 21 percentage points in Westchester County and trails the former Massachusetts governor by just 3 percentage points in Rockland County, voters are dissatisfied with the president's policies on the economy, health care, immigration, education and the Middle East.
When those questions were aggregated, half would rate the president's performance as poor/fair, 30 percent as fair/good and 20 percent as good/excellent.
Siena poll results in Westchester, Rockland on the presidential election
PHOTOS: Celebrities who are Republican, conservative | Mitt Romney's run for president | 2012 third-party presidential candidates
VIDEO: Romney: Obama campaign using 'silly word games' | Obama: Romney suffering from 'Romnesia' | Final debate set up
Economic issues continue to dominate the political debate, with two-thirds of those polled saying the economy is the No. 1 issue, followed by health care (19 percent) and Middle East conflicts (7 percent).
Sixty-two percent of those questioned would rate Obama's performance on the economy as poor or fair, pollsters found, including 37 percent of Democrats, 88 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of independents and those affiliated with other parties.
Nevertheless, prospective voters liked Romney's solutions even less. When respondents were asked to compare Obama's approach on all five issues with Romney's, they gave the incumbent the edge.
Romney came within 5 percentage points of Obama on the economy (50 percent to 45 percent) but trailed by at least 14 percentage points on all the other issues.
Pollster Donald Levy, director of the Siena Research Institute, said health care was the one bright policy area in which a substantial group of people said Obama was doing an excellent job.
"In the other four areas, he's appreciably underwater," Levy said. Still, when the president's approach is compared with Romney's, Obama leads the "horse race," Levy added.
At the county level, Westchester respondents favored Obama's solutions on all five issues. Those in Rockland County backed Romney's ideas on the economy, immigration and the Middle East but not on health care and education reform.
Ellen Grabowitz, a "dyed-in-the-wool" Democrat who was among those polled, defended Obama's policies, saying they need to be viewed in the context of Washington politics.
"The president has limited powers," she said. "Congress has been obstructing this president from virtually day one."
Retiree Nicholas Pecoraro, a Romney supporter, said Obama's "outrageous" spending and tax policies are pushing him to the brink.
"I'm 71 and I can't pay any more taxes. Period," he said. "He goes around saying he loves the poor. He doesn't love the poor. I regard him as a phony."
Despite Romney's background in private equity and his lower-tax rhetoric, 53 percent of those polled with incomes of more than $100,000 said they had a favorable view of Obama, compared with 44 percent who backed Romney. That same group said it would favor Obama's proposal to eliminate George W. Bush administration income tax cuts for taxpayers earning more than $250,000.
Protestants, Jews and those who are unaffiliated or affiliated with other religious groups backed Obama, a Protestant, while Catholics favored Romney, a Mormon, according to the poll.
Women and youthful voters, key Obama constituencies in 2008, remain in his corner. In both counties, 55 percent of women and 61 percent of voters aged 18-34 said they would vote for the incumbent if the election took place the day they were questioned.
The poll of 627 Rockland and Westchester registered voters, conducted Oct. 11-17 by the Siena College Research Institute, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. The segment of the poll involving 601 likely voters from the two counties carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.