The Washington Times - September 19, 2012, 08:52AM

Americans are growing increasingly optimistic about the economy and see President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney as equally capable of overseeing its recovery, according to a poll released Wednesday.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that 42 percent of voters expect the economy to improve over the next 12 months — the highest percentage since 2009 — and that 43 percent of voters think Mr. Obama would handle the economy better than Mr. Romney, compared with 43 percent who say the GOP candidate would do the better job.


The results are a departure from polls throughout the race that consistently have shown that Americans think Mr. Romney is better equipped to handle the economy.

The poll, which surveyed 736 likely voters over the past week, also showed Mr. Obama with a 50-45 lead in the popular vote.

While the poll showed both candidates as even on the economy, Mr. Obama held significant edges in dealing with women’s issues and looking out for the middle class, and smaller edges in being a good commander-in-chief, dealing with Medicare and dealing with taxes.

The poll’s one bit of bad news for the president was that approval of his handling of foreign policy has slipped in the wake of ongoing unrest in the Middle East. Just 49 percent of voters said they approve of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy, down from 54 percent last month and his lowest figure since November 2010.