Despite pessimism among voters about the economy — the top issue in the campaign — Americans rank Obama above all of the candidates vying to be the Republican nominee to run for president in November 2012.

The survey gave Obama the smallest advantage over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, now running second to Texas Governor Rick Perry in national polls.

If the election were held today and Romney were his opponent, Obama would be the choice of 49 percent of registered voters surveyed, versus 43 percent for Romney. Among all voters surveyed, Obama’s advantage over Romney was larger, at 51 percent to 39 percent…

Obama has an eight percentage point advantage over Perry, at 50 percent to 42 percent among registered voters. Among all adults, the result was the same as for Romney — 51 percent backing Obama and 39 percent behind Perry.