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Economists Prefer Obama — Except When They Prefer Romney

The Exchange

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is viewed as having been much stronger than President Obama in Wednesday night's debate, but as to which candidate would be better for the economy, it's unquestionably more of a toss-up that can be measured along party lines.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Credit: ABC News

If you're a Republican, you probably prefer Romney's approach. If you're a Democrat, you likely endorse Obama's plans. But what about people whose job is economics? Very likely, it's much the same as the general population. The Economist has a new survey out this week, which it emailed Thursday morning, that turns up the following: Economists are divided as to who would be better, but neither the president nor the challenger garnered sterling ratings across the board.

However, looking at the totality of the findings, The Economist judged that Obama ultimately fared better in its questionnaire. That said, he certainly hasn't won over every group of economists. [The Economist's survey: Get more details here.]

"Although the overall survey results were broadly pro-Obama, Mitt Romney did score better on some important metrics," The Economist said in its e-mail. "While the academics, a group that leans strongly Democratic, generally preferred Mr Obama, the business economists, who were evenly divided, typically gave Mr Romney the better grade. Among economists who are independent or stated no affiliation, the picture was much more mixed than in the survey as a whole. The independents, like the whole group, rated Mr Obama higher overall, but by a much smaller margin. And on tax reform, entitlements (Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare) and the deficit, the independents preferred Mr Romney's approach by a clear margin."

The economists were asked to grade Obama and Romney on topics such as the economic recovery, financial reform, taxes and China, using a 1 (the worst rating) to 5 (the best) scale. Overall, Obama's economic plan for what would be his second term got a 3.15, while Romney received a 2.14. Academic economists were even more in the Obama camp, rating him 3.26 to 2.03 for Romney. However, for business forecasters, Romney outpaced the president 2.84 to 2.49. Independent economists gave Obama a 2.81 to 2.43 win.

As for "economic policy stewardship," Obama got a 3.21, including roughly half of the economists scoring him a 4 or a 5 -- that is, good or very good -- on The Economist's scale. Again though, those on the business side weren't nearly as kind to the president, rating him a 2.60. Here, most felt Obama should get a 2 or a 1, which equated to bad or very bad in the rating. Independents put him at 2.87.

The survey also found that 44% of the economists said the nation's output would grow more rapidly during a second Obama White House, with 24% saying Romney would lead to faster growth. On this question, 32% of the economists didn't think it would matter who won in terms of expanding U.S. output.

On "managing the economic relationship with China," Obama was the clear winner, The Economist said. That held even among Republican economists, with just 29% of them saying Romney would be better at dealing with China than the president.

"In terms of tax reform, entitlements, and long-term fiscal discipline, economists were roughly divided on who they thought would do a better job, although they did not seem to hold either in particularly high regard, giving both candidates' plans average scores at or below 2.5 on our 1-to-5 scale," The Economist said.

The survey had 384 respondents and was conducted prior to the debate. The Economist will publish the results in paper form Oct. 6.

With the election coming up in a little over a month, this is prime time for polling on the economy and plenty of other issues. Depending on who asks and who's answering, it's safe to expect differing results, so all of it has to be put in perspective. For instance, CNNMoney had a piece earlier this week that said its much smaller survey, of 17 economists, gave the edge to Romney.

As always, we want to hear from you. When it comes to the economy, which candidate do you trust more -- President Obama or Gov. Romney?