President Obama faces a hostile environment in the dozen states likely to decide next November if he deserves a second term, according to the first USA Today/Gallup Swing States poll, released early Friday.
The poll surveyed registered voters in 12 states that Obama carried in 2008 (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin), finding the president (46 percent) in a virtual tie with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (47 percent). Against businessman Herman Cain and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Obama leads narrowly; the poll was conducted prior to revelations that multiple women accused Cain of sexual harassment when he led the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
But a deeper dive into the numbers yields a plethora of troubling data points for the president's reelection campaign. His approval rating in these states is just 40 percent. Just 20 percent of registered voters in these states are satisfied with the direction of the country, while 77 percent say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going right now. And three-in-five voters say they are not better off than they were three years ago; just 37 percent say they are better off.
Obama is also lagging on a number of specific issues. Asked whether Obama or the Republican candidate would do a better job handling the issue of unemployment, 49 percent of swing-state voters choose the GOP candidate, while only 42 percent think Obama would do a better job. On the federal budget deficit, 54 percent favor the Republican candidate, and only 38 percent prefer Obama.
On health care, voters are split, with 46 percent choosing the Republican candidate, and 45 percent favoring Obama -- an issue where Democrats traditionally have held a significant advantage. And 51 percent of voters think it is a bad thing that Congress passed the health care reform law last year, while only 38 percent think the law's passage is a good thing.
Obama also runs neck-and-neck with the GOP on the issue of terrorism and international threats; 45 percent prefer Obama, while 44 percent side with the GOP. (A United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll released this week showed Republicans with a significant edge on Democrats on protecting the country against terrorists).
The USA Today/Gallup Swing States poll was conducted Oct. 20-27, surveying 1,169 registered voters over those 12 states. The margin of error is +/- 2.9 percent.
Gallup also released a companion, national survey showing Obama and Romney tied among registered voters at 47 percent. Obama led Perry by four points and Cain by two points, though he was under the critical 50-percent threshold against both; this poll was also conducted before the sexual harassment allegations against Cain became public.
The national poll was conducted Oct. 26-27, also for USA Today, surveying 908 registered voters. The margin of error for that poll is +/- 3.3 percent.