The race for New Hampshire's four electoral votes is a dead heat, according to a new poll released late Tuesday that shows Granite Staters are pessimistic about the direction of the country.
The poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, shows President Obama leading Republican challenger Mitt Romney among likely voters, 49 percent to 45 percent, within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. The poll represents a slight tightening of the race in the state: In April, Obama held a 9-point lead, 51 percent to 42 percent.
"This election looks to be as close as the 2000 and 2004 elections in New Hampshire," UNH Survey Center Director Andy Smith told WMUR-TV, the Manchester-based television station for which the poll was conducted. "In both of those elections, the race was won by about 1 percentage point."
The poll shows the two candidates running virtually even among the key bloc of independent voters who often tilt the balance in the state. While Obama wins 89 percent of Democrats, and Romney holds 86 percent of Republicans, independents are split, 41 percent for Romney and 40 percent for Obama.
Among all adults, 47 percent approve of Obama's job performance, and 48 percent disapprove. Granite Staters are also split on Obama personally: Forty-seven percent have a favorable opinion of him, equal to the 47 percent who have an unfavorable opinion. But Romney earns lower ratings, with just 37 percent viewing him favorably and 47 percent having an unfavorable view.
The race has tightened despite Romney's unpopularity. Fifty-seven percent believe the country is on the wrong track, and 53 percent disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy.
New Hampshire was the only state won by Republican George W. Bush in 2000 to flip to the Democratic column in 2004. It remained blue in 2008 by a significant margin, but the competitive GOP primary in the state earlier this year, along with Romney's ties to the Granite State — he owns a vacation home there — portend a closer race this fall.
The poll of 470 likely voters was conducted July 5-15. The overall survey interviewed 521 adults and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.