Even though President Obama has a slight edge over Mitt Romney, he's merely tied with his Republican opponent on the most important issue, the economy. On an issue less likely to play a central role in the election -- gay marriage -- there's some reason to think Obama got a boost by supporting it. Here's our guide to today's polls and why they matter.

Findings: Obama and Romney are tied for who voters think would handle the economy better. Both have 47 percent on that issue, even though the poll shows Obama with a slight lead over Romney, with 49 percent to 46 percent.

Pollster: Washington Post/ ABC News

Methodology: Telephone survey of 1,004 adults, 874 of them registered voters, from May 17 to May 20. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Why it matters: The economy is widely seen as the deciding factor for whether a president is reelected. So on that score, there's some bad news for Obama in the poll: it finds that 30 percent think they're worse off financially than when Obama was sworn in, while 16 percent say they're better off. On the other hand, a majority, 58 percent, think they'll be doing better financially in the next few years. "There is not a widespread sense that things would be better had Romney been president for the past three-plus years," the Post's Jon Cohen and Dan Balz write. Also Tuesday, a Public Policy Polling survey commissioned by Daily Kos/SEIU finds that 57 percent of voters think Romney cared more about making money than making jobs when he worked at Bain.

Caveat: A USA Today/ Gallup poll released May 7 showed a much bigger advantage for Romney on the economy. The survey found that 60 percent of registered voters in swing states thought Romney would do a good or very good job fixing the economy, while only 52 percent thought Obama would. And another finding, while not tied to the economy, should give Romney cause for concern. The Post poll finds Obama with a double-digit lead over Romney on having the better character to serve as president and on standing for what he believes in.


Findings: Obama is averaging a 1.6 percent lead over Romney nationally, higher than before he came out in favor of gay marriage.

Analyst: Real Clear Politics

Methodology: Average of recent national polls.

Why it matters: Obama might be experiencing a post-gay marriage bump, The Washington Post's Ezra Klein writes. Tuesday was the first day that Real Clear Politics' average was made up of surveys taken after (or mostly after) Obama announced he supported same-sex maryiage on May 9. On that day, Obama was averaging a lead of only 0.2 percentage points, Klein points out. The bump might not be because of gay marriage, and even if it is, it's a small bump, he writes. But still, "for all the hubbub, and all the column inches devoted to gaming out the political fallout, Obama's announcement led to little evident movement in the polls, and what movement there has been has been in his favor."

Caveat: A New York Times poll released a couple days after Obama's announcement showed two-thirds of voters thought Obama made the gay marriage change for political reasons. Perhaps we can conclude that the voters are more astute political forecasters than we give them credit for!


Findings: 45 percent of the people who are sick think the quality of health care in America is a very serious problem, while only 31 percent of people who aren't sick think that. And 73 percent of sick people think the cost of health care is a very serious problem, while a smaller majority, 61 percent, of healthy people think that.

Pollster: NPR/ Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Methodology: Survey of 1,508 adults nationwide. Just over a quarter of them qualified as "sick" -- having "had a serious illness, injury or disability requiring 'a lot of medical care,' or overnight hospitalization within the past 12 months."

Why it matters: If the Supreme Court overturns Obamacare, the country's health care system still faces a lot of problems. 

Caveat: 70 percent of Americans oppose a rule that would let insurance companies deny payment for emergency room care if the doctor finds the patient's condition was not really an emergency, according to a Harris Interactive poll commissioned by the American College of Emergency Physicians. Emergency room visits are one reason health care is so expensive.