Arguably the most interesting poll you'll see today doesn't mention either presidential candidate or political party. It's this one from Gallup on Americans' attitudes towards their own economic conditions.
As the pollster reported, "For the first time in more than five years, slightly more Americans are feeling financially better off, rather than worse off, compared with a year ago, by 38% to 34%. This represents a significant improvement since May of President Barack Obama's first year as president, when the majority -- 54% -- said they were worse off."
As for the electoral implications, in the three modern presidential elections in which Americans were less upbeat about their economic prospects -- 1976, 1980, and 1992 -- the incumbent lost. On the other hand, "the 38% of Americans feeling better off today is on par with what Gallup found before the 2004 and 1984 elections, when Presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan won their re-election bids."
Mitt Romney desperately wants the electorate to believe Obama made the economy "worse," and is urging voters to feel discouraged, pessimistic, and frustrated. The problem, of course, is that the Republican is not only combating quantifiable evidence -- lower unemployment, a recovering housing sector, a strengthening auto industry, rising consumer confidence -- he's also running into Americans' improving attitudes about the status quo.
What's more, the Gallup report found more Americans who believe their financial status is improving and believe conditions will continue to improve in the near future.
To be sure, it's important not to overstate the optimism. Millions of Americans are still struggling and haven't seen economic improvements in their own lives, and that's reflected in the Gallup results, too. But in general, after a brutal recession, public perceptions are clearly and finally changing in ways we haven't seen since before the crash, which in turn benefits the incumbent and makes it that much more difficult for the challenger to persuade the nation to dramatically change course.