As Democrats gather in Charlotte this week for their nominating convention, a new poll released early Monday shows President Obama trailing slightly in the host state of North Carolina, where he is facing a significant deficit on the economy, the most important issue to a plurality of the Tar Heel State's voters.
The poll, conducted by Elon University for The Charlotte Observer and its sister paper, The News & Observer, in Raleigh, shows Mitt Romney leading Obama, 47 percent to 43 percent. Nine percent of likely voters said they were undecided or preferred neither candidate.
The survey shows that Obama is struggling to reassemble the tenuous coalition that gave him a narrow victory in the state in 2008, when he became the first Democrat to carry North Carolina since 1976. The drop in support among younger voters is most conspicuous.
In 2008, Obama won an overwhelming 74 percent of the vote among voters under age 30, but the new poll shows him at only 58 percent among voters aged 30 and younger (some of the age breaks differ slightly from the 2008 exit poll to the new Elon survey). Among people 65 and older, the poll differs little from results four years ago: Romney leads, 53 percent to 40 percent, roughly equivalent to Sen. John McCain's 13-point victory with seniors in North Caroline in 2008.
Elsewhere in the poll, a majority of likely voters, 52 percent, think that Romney would do a better job handling the economy, compared with only 39 percent who prefer Obama. Nearly half, 48 percent, rank the economy as the most important issue in the election; the next-closest issue is health care at 16 percent.
The poll was conducted Aug. 25-30, during last week's Republican National Convention. Before the GOP convention, a CNN/Time/ORC International poll showed the two candidates roughly neck and neck in the state.
The Elon poll surveyed 1,089 likely voters via landline and cellular telephone, for a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.