The CNN/ORC International poll, conducted Thursday through Sunday, found three-fourths of those surveyed said the economy is in poor shape -- an increase in the number who said that in May. The 60 percent who said the economy will be better in the next 12 months was a substantial increase from the 39 percent who said the same thing in October.
"Americans are usually optimists, but in 2011, polls for the first time found that more than half the country thought that economic conditions would worsen in the next 12 months," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "Now that trend has reversed itself, with only four in 10 saying that the economy will be in poor shape a year from now."
Keating said the economy is the top issue for voters heading into the 2012 election, followed by healthcare, the deficit, education, unemployment and terrorism.
Forty-eight percent of registered voters said they thought President Barack Obama could do a better job than presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney of handling the economy, while 47 percent said Romney would do better -- and Romney was preferred by 52 percent of independents in the issue. Obama had an edge among lower-income voters, women and younger voters, while Romney led the president among men and higher-income and older voters.
Those polled gave an edge to Romney on dealing with the federal deficit, while Obama had the edge on foreign policy and healthcare.
ORC International conducted the poll by telephone for CNN, with a survey sample of 1,517 adults -- including 1,390 registered voters. The overall sampling error is 2.5 percentage points.