President Barack Obama holds a 5-point lead over Mitt Romney in Ohio, while Florida and Virginia remain too close to call, according to a new Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll of likely voters.
Obama leads by 50 to 45 percent in Ohio — the state where many analysts believe the election will be decided — the same as the poll showed back on Oct. 22.
In Florida, the president is leading by a single percentage point according to the poll. The figures of 48 to 47 percent are well within the poll's margin of error. At one point, Obama had a 9-point lead in the state that decided the 2000 election.
In Virginia, which has turned into a crucial swing state this election, Quinnipiac gave Obama 49 percent to Romney's 47 percent, also within the margin of error.
The survey was taken between last Tuesday and Sunday, so was completed before the onset of the superstorm Sandy. Many analysts believe the president might receive a boost at the polls if clean-up efforts are seen as effective. Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told Fox News that the storm which devastated huge portions of the eastern United States is “manna from heaven” for the president.
“Changing the subject is great for Obama. He's been trying to change the subject all year,” Barbour. “Any day that Obama's record is not in front of the American people is a relief for Obama.”
Quinnipiac attributed the tight race in the three swing states to Romney gaining among women voters.
“The gender gap which has marked this campaign is getting smaller in Florida and Virginia,” said Peter Brown, the Connecticut university’s assistant director of polling. “In general, women are about 10 points plus for President Obama and men are in Gov. Romney’s corner by about the same margin. This represents a slight increase for Romney among men and women. In some earlier polls, Obama’s lead among women had been in the high teens."
The poll found that likely women voters back Obama by 53 percent to 43 percent in both Florida and Virginia and by 56 percent to 39 percent in Ohio.
The poll found that Romney is doing better among men and white voters, but in all three states those polled felt by large majorities that Obama understood their needs better. Voters are about split on who can best handle the economy.
“Much of the difference between Obama’s solid lead at this point four years ago and today in the swing states and nationally is the drop in the president’s support among white voters, especially in Florida, where he trails 59-37 percent among whites, a group he lost 56-42 percent in 2008, when he got 43 percent of the white vote nationally," Brown said.
“But the president is getting about 95 percent of African-Americans in these states.
“In general, voters prefer Obama on a majority of issues and characteristics and rate the two candidates roughly even on the big one — the economy. Likely voters think Obama better understands their needs and problems, but more voters see Romney as a strong leader,” he said.
Other key findings from the poll:
• The economy is getting better, those polled in all three states believe;
• Independents prefer Romney, especially in Virginia, where the Republican candidate is favored by 57 percent to 36 percent. In Florida and Ohio there is respectively a five and six percentage point advantage for the Republican
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