(Adds details)

* Obama extends lead over Romney by one point in August

* In switch, voters say Obama better on taxes, economy

By Deborah Charles

WASHINGTON, August 8 (Reuters) - Americans are increasingly pessimistic about the future but voters do not seem to be holding it against Democratic President Barack Obama, who slightly expanded his lead over Republican rival Mitt Romney this month, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll says.

Three months before the Nov. 6 presidential election, nearly two-thirds of Americans think the country is moving in the wrong direction. Only 31 percent say it is moving in the right direction - the lowest number since December 2011.

But Obama's lead over Romney among registered voters was 49 percent to 42 percent, up slightly from the 6-point advantage the president held a month earlier over the former Massachusetts governor.

The results of the monthly poll - in which a majority of voters agreed that the economy is the most important problem facing the United States - suggest that the Obama campaign's efforts to paint Romney as being out of touch with the concerns of middle-class Americans could be preventing the Republican from gaining momentum in the race.

"The overall 'right track, wrong track' is worse than last month - the news hasn't been great lately," said Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson. "But Obama seems to be, to some extent, inoculated against some of the worst of that."

The telephone poll of 1,168 adults, including 1,014 registered voters, was taken from August 2 to August 6. During that period, the Labor Department reported that U.S. employers hired the most workers in five months but that the nation's jobless rate had risen to 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent.

Even so, in a reversal from July, registered voters thought Obama was stronger than Romney in dealing with jobs and the economy, and with tax issues.

The poll indicated that 46 percent of registered voters thought Obama was stronger on jobs and the economy, compared with 44 percent for Romney. And on tax matters, 49 percent saw Obama as stronger, compared with 38 percent for Romney.

In an advertising blitz that has been focused on a dozen politically divided states, Obama and his Democratic allies have been hammering Romney's record as a private equity executive at Bain Capital, accusing him of plundering companies and shipping jobs overseas.


'KITCHEN SINK' STRATEGY

The Obama team's ads also have questioned why Romney - who has an estimated fortune of up to $250 million - will not release more than two years of tax returns, and have suggested that Romney has paid far lower tax rates than most Americans.

"The Democrats' current strategy of just pummeling Romney on Bain and on the economy has been kind of a kitchen sink thing," Jackson said. "Even if it's not necessarily hurt Romney, it's given him no opportunity to build a lead."

Obama's new lead on the issue of jobs and the economy is particularly significant, Jackson said.

"That is the key issue in this race," he said. "For Romney to be able to make a convincing argument and to win the election, he's going to have to have a fairly significant lead over Obama on that measure."

Jackson said Romney - who has based his campaign on the notion that he would be better than Obama at dealing with the economy - likely needs to have at least a 5- to 8-point lead over Obama on the jobs and economy issue to win the election.

"There's certainly no case at the moment that Romney's building some sort of momentum toward victory here," Jackson said.

The Reuters/Ipsos survey, conducted over landline and cell phones, has a margin of error of 3 percent for all adults and 3.4 percent for registered voters.

(For the full poll, please click on the following link: http://www.ipsos-na.com/news-polls/pressrelease.aspx?id=5715)

(For complete coverage of the U.S. presidential campaign please click on ) (Editing by David Lindsey and Vicki Allen)

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Birth Certificate -- "Born In The USA"

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/27/obama-birth-certificate-r_n_854248.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(April 27, 2011) --</strong></a> The White House <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/04/27/president-obamas-long-form-birth-certificate" target="_hplink">released</a> President Barack Obama's "long form" birth certificate, adding documentation to a longstanding discussion over his ability to serve as commander in chief. "We do not have time for this kind of silliness," Obama said. "We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve." (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Osama Bin Laden Killed -- "Tonight, Tonight"

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/01/osama-bin-laden-dead-killed_n_856091.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(May 1, 2011)</strong></a> -- In a televised address to the nation, Obama announces that Osama bin Laden is dead. His death was the result of a U.S. operation launched today in Abbottabad, Pakistan, against a compound where bin Laden was believed to be hiding. "[T]oday's achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people," Obama proclaimed. (Photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images)

  • Debt Ceiling Deal -- "Gold On The Ceiling"

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/02/obama-debt-ceiling-deal-jobs_n_916285.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Aug. 2, 2011) --</strong></a> After the Senate passed a bill to raise the debt limit, Obama pleaded with Congress to shift their attention to jobs. "I will urge them to immediately take some steps -- bipartisan, common-sense steps -- that will make a difference; that will create a climate where businesses can hire, where folks have more money in their pockets to spend, where people who are out of work can find good jobs," he said. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

  • Don't Ask Don't Tell -- "Don't Stop Believin'"

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/20/barack-obama-dont-ask-dont-tell-repeal-statement_n_971662.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Sept. 20, 2011) --</strong></a> As the ban on gays serving in the military came to an end, Obama hailed the fresh start, celebrating the fact that "patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love." (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

  • Iraq War To End -- "Homeward Bound"

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/21/obama-iraq-troop-withdrawal_n_1024108.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Oct. 21, 2011) --</strong></a> Obama announced that all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by 2011, fulfilling a promise that dated back to his campaign. "As a candidate for president, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end," Obama said. "So today I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year." (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Singing Al Green's "Let's Stay Together"

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/20/obama-al-green-apollo-theater_n_1218070.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Jan. 20, 2012) --</strong></a> During a fundraiser at Harlem's historic Apollo Theater, Obama delivered a memorable musical message to his donors. With Rev. Al Green in attendance, Obama sang part of Green's hit song "Let's Stay Together," drawing strong applause from the crowd.

  • Singing Robert Johnson's "Sweet Home Chicago"

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/21/obama-sings-sweet-home-chicago_n_1292576.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Feb. 21, 2012) --</strong></a> Days after his Al Green rendition, Obama flexed his vocal chords again with a hometown favorite. The East Room of the White House had its blues fix filled when the president started swinging "Sweet Home Chicago."

  • Gay Marriage -- "Can't Fight This Feeling"

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/09/obama-gay-marriage_n_1503245.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(May 9, 2012) --</strong></a> In a sit-down interview with ABC's Robin Roberts, Obama explained his evolution on the issue, affirming his support for gay marriage. "[A]t a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married," he said.

  • Immigration -- "With Arms Wide Open"

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/15/obama-immigration-order-deportation-dream-act_n_1599658.html " target="_hplink"><strong>(June 15, 2012) --</strong></a> The Obama administration addressed America's immigration issue, announcing that it will halt deportations and grant work permits to young individuals eligible for Dream-Act benefits. "They pledge allegiance to our flag," Obama said. "They are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper."(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

  • Health Care Reform -- "Beautiful Day"

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/28/supreme-court-health-care-decision_n_1585131.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(June 28, 2012) --</strong></a> After weeks of speculation that Obama's signature piece of legislation could be overturned, the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate is constitutional. "It should be pretty clear that I didn't do this because it's good politics," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/28/obama-health-care-ruling_n_1632953.html" target="_hplink">Obama said</a>. "I did it because it's good for the country." (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)