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The Trail: 2012 Presidential News from the Field / CAMPAIGN 2012

New Polls Show Obama Leading in Important Battleground States

Barack Obama speaks to delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC.(Ralf-Finn Hestoft)

photo of Steven Shepard
September 13, 2012

Four new battleground-state polls released Thursday show that the electoral map favors President Obama following both parties' conventions, with Obama leading in the states most likely to choose the next president. New NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls in Florida, Ohio, and Virginia show the president leading his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, as does a new WMUR-TV Granite State Poll in New Hampshire.

The president's advantages in these states—between 5 and 7 percentage points in each separate survey—are similar to his lead in some recent national polls conducted since the Democratic convention, including the Gallup Daily Tracking poll, which currently shows him 6 points ahead of Romney among registered voters, 50 percent to 44 percent.

Obama's leads in these states may be a reflection of his convention bounce, but they also underscore the difficult electoral math that Romney faces in his quest to win the White House this fall. The states surveyed by NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist were all won by George W. Bush twice before Obama wrestled them away in 2008. New Hampshire, whose four electoral votes could prove pivotal in a tight race, was won by Bush in 2000 before Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., pushed it into the Democratic column in 2004.



Obama leads Romney in Florida, 49 percent to 44 percent, with 6 percent preferring another candidate or undecided. While each candidate wins roughly nine in 10 of their own partisans, Obama squeaks out a 7-point lead among independents, 48 percent to 41 percent.

Male voters tilt toward Romney, 49 percent to 45 percent. But Obama leads among female voters, 53 percent to 41 percent.

Romney leads among white voters by 17 points, 56 percent to 39 percent. That is slightly stronger than Sen. John McCain's performance among whites in 2008, according to exit polls that showed him winning them by 14 points, with an identical 56 percent of the vote. But Obama compensates for losses among whites by posting the same 57-percent mark among Latino voters as in 2008, compared with just 35 percent for Romney, who underperforms McCain (42 percent) among this group.

The two candidates run even among voters who say they have high enthusiasm about the election, but Obama leads among voters who say they strongly support their chosen candidate, 53 percent to 47 percent.

Forty-nine percent of likely voters approve of the job Obama is doing as president, compared with 46 percent who disapprove. But likely voters also have a positive impression of Romney: 47 percent view him favorably, 45 percent unfavorably.

New Hampshire

The new WMUR-TV Granite State Poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, shows Obama leading Romney, 45 percent to 40 percent, with an unusually high percentage of voters—12 percent—undecided. The percentage of undecided voters has tripled from August, when it was just 4 percent. Obama's 5-point lead is a slight, but insignificant improvement from the August poll, when he led by 3 points.

Obama runs slightly stronger among registered Democrats, with 89 percent of the vote, than Romney does among Republicans, with 82 percent. Those registered undeclared favor Obama, 46 percent to 33 percent. More than 2-in-5 voters in the poll were not registered with a party.

Among those voters who have "definitely" decided for whom they will vote, Obama leads by 4 points. But Romney has a slight, statistically-insignificant edge among those voters who say they are "extremely interested" in the election, 48 percent to 44 percent.

As in the Marist polls, the UNH poll shows an electorate in which more voters approve of the job Obama is doing, 52 percent, than disapprove, 45 percent.


The Buckeye State continues to trend toward Obama—and away from Romney—with the president posting his strongest performance in the series of polls, leading 50 percent to 43 percent. Seven percent chose another candidate or are undecided. There is no enthusiasm gap in Ohio, as Obama leads by 7 points among high-enthusiasm voters, matching his overall margin.

The two candidates run neck-and-neck among independent voters—44 percent for Romney, 41 percent for Obama—but the president's lead is built on a 10-point party-identification lead in the poll for Democrats. In 2008, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 8 percentage points, according to exit polls.

In 2008, Obama performed better among white voters in Ohio (46 percent) than he did nationally (43 percent), and in Ohio this year, his standing among whites is 44 percent, better than in the other two states in which NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist surveyed.

Half of likely voters in Ohio approve of the job Obama is doing, and 51 percent have a favorable impression of the president. Romney, on the other hand, continues to lag in Ohio when it comes to personal popularity. Just two in five voters view him favorably, and half have an unfavorable opinion.


Obama leads Romney in the race for Virginia's 13 electoral votes, 49 percent to 44 percent. Two percent prefer another candidate, and 5 percent are undecided.

As in Ohio, neither candidate is able to lure a sizable number of the other's partisans, while independents split down the middle, 45 percent for Romney and 43 percent for Obama.

Romney also leads among white voters, 55 percent to 39 percent. Obama's share of the white vote is identical to his performance among whites in 2008, according to exit polls, but Romney trails the 60 percent McCain won in 2008. Obama leads among nonwhites, 77 percent to 15 percent.

Also as in Ohio, there is no enthusiasm gap. Obama leads among high-enthusiasm voters, 50 percent to 45 percent, the same as his overall margin. And among those voters who "strongly support" their candidate, Obama leads by 9 points.

A 49-percent plurality of likely voters approve of the job Obama is doing as president, compared to 45 percent who disapprove. Additionally, 53 percent have a favorable opinion of Obama.

Meanwhile, 46 percent view Romney favorably, roughly the same as the 45 percent who view him unfavorably.


The NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls were each conducted Sept. 9-11, after the Democratic convention and last week's August unemployment report, but before the extent of the incidents at U.S. embassies in North Africa became widely known. The polls surveyed 980 likely voters in Florida, 979 in Ohio, and 996 in Virginia. Each poll carries a separate margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

The WMUR-TV Granite State Poll was conducted Sept. 4-10; some interviews were conducted prior to speeches at the Democratic convention and the August jobs report. The poll surveyed 592 likely voters, for a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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