President Obama remains stubbornly ahead in Ohio, while the race against Mitt Romney remains close in Florida and Virginia, according to new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls released early on Wednesday.
Obama leads in each of the three states, though his advantage in the two closer states is within the margin of error. In Florida, Obama leads, 47 percent to 46 percent; in Ohio, 51 percent to 43 percent; and in Virginia, 48 percent to 46 percent.
While Romney runs slightly closer in Florida and Virginia compared to NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls conducted immediately following last month's Democratic convention, the changes between the new polls and the previous surveys are not statistically significant in any of the three states.
"Things have returned in Florida and Virginia to the kind of closeness we've been seeing earlier in the campaign," Marist College pollster Lee Miringoff told NBCNews.com. "Not so in Ohio."
The polls also underscore the importance of contacting voters via cell phone. While the Ohio poll shows no disparity in the presidential choices between landline and cell-phone respondents, in the other two states, Romney leads among landline voters, while Obama holds roughly 20-point advantages among those contacted by cell phone. The latest estimates from the government are that roughly a third of U.S. adults do not own landline phones, and pollsters have grappled with how to incorporate these cell-only individuals into their samples.
Each candidate wins 9-in-10 of their own partisans in Florida, the poll shows, with Romney slightly ahead among independents, 47 percent to 41 percent. Democrats lead Republicans in party identification among likely voters by a 3-point margin, 41 percent to 38 percent.
The poll shows no significant gender gap, with the candidates virtually tied among both sexes. Romney leads among men by just a single point, 47 percent to 46 percent, while Obama holds an insignificant 3-point edge among female voters, 48 percent to 45 percent. In the post-convention poll last month, Romney led by 4 points among men, while Obama held a 12-point advantage among women.
Among white voters, Romney leads, 56 percent to 38 percent. But Obama wins 91 percent of African-American voters, and he also leads among Latinos, 54 percent to 37 percent.
Sunshine State voters hold marginally positive views of both candidates. Half view Obama favorably, versus 45 percent unfavorably. Romney is viewed favorably by 46 percent of likely voters, compared to 43 percent who view him unfavorably.
Voters are split on which candidate they think will do a better job handling the economy: 47 percent say Romney, while 45 percent pick Obama. Obama remains slightly ahead on the issue of foreign policy, 49 percent to 44 percent, down a tick from his 10-point edge on this issue last month.
Obama's 8-point lead in the Ohio poll is virtually unchanged from last month, when Obama was ahead by 7 points. The race is closer among those who say they are very enthusiastic about voting, with Obama leading, 51 percent to 48 percent. But Obama leads by a wider margin among those who strongly support their preferred candidate, 55 percent to 45 percent.
Ninety-five percent of Democrats support Obama, while 91 percent of Republicans back Romney. Independents tilt toward Obama by an insignificant margin, 47 percent to 43 percent. Thirty-six percent of likely voters identify as Democrats, while 31 percent say they are Republicans.
The two candidates run neck-and-neck among men: 48 percent for Romney, 46 percent for Obama. But women favor Obama by a wide margin, 56 percent to 39 percent.
Romney holds a slender edge among white voters in the state, 49 percent to 46 percent. Nonwhites overwhelmingly favor Obama, 86 percent to 11 percent.
A majority of likely voters, 51 percent, have an unfavorable opinion of Romney, while only 42 percent view him favorably. Meanwhile, Obama enjoys more positive ratings: 52 percent favorable, and 44 percent unfavorable.
By a slim, 3-point margin, Obama is rated higher on handling the economy. The president holds a wider, 11-point edge on foreign policy.
Obama's 2-point lead in the new poll is down from his 5-point lead immediately after the conventions. The poll shows each candidate's supporters equally enthusiastic: Obama also leads by 2 points among high-enthusiasm voters and voters who strongly support their candidate.
Obama wins 94 percent of Democrats, while Romney retains 91 percent of Republicans. Independents are split: 45 percent for Romney, 44 percent for Obama.
Romney holds an insignificant, 3-point lead among male voters, 48 percent to 45 percent, while Obama has a slightly more robust edge among women, 52 percent to 44 percent.
White voters favor Romney by a 20-point margin, 57 percent to 37 percent. But Obama wins more than 4-in-5 non-white voters.
Obama retains an advantage on likability: 52 percent view him favorably, against 44 percent who have an unfavorable opinion of him. Just 45 percent of likely voters have a favorable opinion of Romney, versus 47 percent who view him unfavorably.
The two candidates remain deadlocked on the economy: 47 percent for Romney, and 46 percent for Obama. But on the question of which candidate will do a better job handling foreign policy, Obama leads by 10 points, virtually equal to his 11-point lead last month.
The polls were conducted Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 by the Poughkeepsie, N.Y.-based Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. The polls include live telephone interviews with 890 likely voters in Florida, 931 in Ohio and 969 in Virginia. The margins of error are plus-or-minus 3.3 percentage points in Florida, 3.2 percentage points in Ohio and 3.1 percentage points in Virginia.
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