Tampa, Florida (CNN) – President Barack Obama has a big advantage over Mitt Romney on social issues and a smaller margin on foreign policy, but according to a new national survey the Republican challenger has the edge on the economy, issue number one with American voters.
A CNN/ORC International poll released Sunday also indicates there are a lot of issues where neither candidate has an appreciable edge, and many of them - including welfare, taxes, health care, and Medicare - have been fodder recently for both presidential campaigns.
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According to the poll, 59% of likely voters say the president would better handle polices towards gays and lesbians, with one in three saying Romney would better handle such policy. And by a 53%-40% margin, they say Obama would better handle policy on abortion. He has a 51%-44% advantage over Romney on foreign policy and a 50%-43% margin over the former Massachusetts governor on terrorism.
"It's not surprising that the administration responsible for Osama bin Laden's death would have an edge on terrorism and foreign policy, but those issues have faded in importance compared to previous elections," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Social issues also appear to be a Democratic strong point."
What about Medicare, which dominated the airwaves immediately after Romney announced House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan as his running mate? The seven-term congressman from Wisconsin has authored a controversial plan to alter Medicare.
The poll indicates voters are divided on which candidate would do a better job on Medicare, and health care, another major flashpoint for years.
What about welfare, a major topic recently in TV ads from both presidential campaigns?
Fifty-one percent said Obama would do a better job, with 47% saying Romney would better handle the issue. The president's four point margin is within the poll's sampling error. The president has a six point advantage on energy, the subject of a major Romney rollout last week.
"That used to be a Republican issue, but the Democratic push on Romney's tax returns and Obama's position on tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 may have blunted that," adds Holland.
The poll indicates this is not the case for the federal deficit, which has typically been a good issue for the GOP and it remains so today. According to the survey, Romney holds a ten-point lead on that, as he does on illegal immigration.
It may all come down to the economy, where Romney currently has a 50%-46% margin over Obama. That is within the poll's sampling error.
The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International from August 22-23, with 1,055 adult Americans, including 924 registered voters and 719 likely voters, questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
– CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.