2012 Election
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. REUTERS

The presidential race continues to be a tossup, with several new polls showing a split electorate and a persistent sense of gloom about the fitful economic recovery.

A trio of new polls -- one by NPR, one by Fox News, and one by CBS News/New York Times -- show a contest that is within the margin of error, with either President Obama or presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney clinging to a hair-thin lead. The two candidates have been locked in a virtual tie for much of the summer.

If he is to win re-election, President Obama will need to contend with a tepid approval rating and a widespread perception that the economy is still ailing. Only the NPR poll gave him a positive favorability rating, and in that survey independent voters disapproved of his performance by a 7-point margin.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents to the Fox poll said they were dissatisfied with the direction the country is going, and Americans were more likely to say they are not better off than they were four years ago. The CBS/New York Times poll found that the people who believe the economy is getting worse outnumber those who say it is getting better.

While President Obama appears to enjoy more enthusiastic backing from Democrats than Romney does from members of his party, Republican voters seem to be more energized about the election. That would confirm the dynamics governing the Republican presidential primary, when Romney rode to a victory on a sentiment that defeating Obama took precedence over the values or conservative bona fides of the eventual nominee.

A gender gap also appears to persist, with Romney leading among men and Obama poised to capture more female voters.