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September 1, 2014, 10:19 pm

Poll shows economy top issue for voters

President Obama remains popular among voters, but a sluggish economy remains the biggest challenge in his bid for a second term, according to a new poll.

A new Associated Press-Gfk poll shows that Americans are growing more pessimistic about the economy and the president’s handling of it.

The pessimistic outlook extends across party lines, including a steep decline in the share of Democrats who call the economy “good’ down from 48 percent in February to just 31 percent now.

On his handling of the economy, 52 percent disapprove while 46 percent approve. In February, Americans were about evenly divided on the issue.

The economy is the top issue in the presidential race, despite a number of social issues that have recently dominated media coverage including access to contraception, abortion and whether or not stay-at-home mothers represent working women.

The economy will probably remain the top concern even after the president’s recent announcement that he supports same-sex marriages.

The president’s public support of same-sex marriage may be historic but it will not become the most important issue among voters, with the possible exception of some staunch social conservatives and gay rights advocates.

It addition to overshadowing controversial social issues, the economy will be a bigger concern among voters than Obama’s race or Mitt Romney’s religion.

This should not be a surprise.

The economy is usually a top issue among voters in the presidential race. Presidents often win or lose elections based on well the economy is doing at the time of the election. This year it is especially important considering the nation is still recovering from the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression.

President Obama will have to convince the American public that his economic policies are best for the country. He needs to explain how the economic-stimulus program and the bailout of the auto industry helped rescue the economy from disaster.

The president has accomplished a great deal in his first term in office including ending the war in Iraq and passage of the Affordable Care Act to increase health care coverage. But he still must convince the majority of voters that the country is on the right track on the economy.