Obama ahead in three key states, poll shows

WASHINGTON Thu Aug 2, 2012 1:11am IST

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the 2012 National Urban League Conference at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans July 25, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the 2012 National Urban League Conference at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans July 25, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama has the edge over Mitt Romney in three key battleground states in large part because voters find him more likable than the Republican challenger, a poll released on Wednesday found.

Quinnipiac University's survey of more than 3,500 likely voters in the November 6 U.S. election found Obama ahead by 11 percentage points in Pennsylvania (53 to 42 percent), and 6 percentage points in both Ohio (50 to 44 percent) and Florida (51 to 45 percent). Obama won all three states in the 2008 presidential election.

At least 50 percent of respondents in the three states expressed a "favorable" opinion of Obama compared to about 40 percent for Romney, according to the poll, which has a margin of error of about plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

The Obama campaign has tried to portray Romney, one of the richest men ever to seek the presidency, as out-of-touch with ordinary Americans.

A separate survey by Gallup released on Wednesday showed that less than half of adults in Ohio (44 percent), Florida (46 percent) and Pennsylvania (46 percent) approved of the job Obama has done this year.

Overall, Gallup's poll found a majority of people in 13 states and Washington, D.C. approved of the president's handling of his job between January and June, while less than half of those in the other 37 U.S. states approved of it.

Various polls show a tight race nationwide between the Democratic president and Romney as the U.S. economy struggles and unemployment remains high. A Reuters/Ipsos poll last month found Obama's standing among U.S. voters improving amid slightly more optimism about the future.

'RUNNING BETTER'

"The president is running better in the key swing states than he is nationally," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, who added that no U.S. president has won the White House without winning at least two of the three states since 1960.

"Part of the reason may be that the unemployment rate in Ohio is well below the national average. In Florida, it has been dropping over the past year, while nationally that has not been the case," Brown said in a statement.

Despite concerns over U.S. economic problems, just over a third of voters in the three states said both Romney and Obama's economic policies would make no difference to their personal financial situation.

They were also split over whether either candidate's policies would help or hurt their pocketbooks, according to the poll, conducted between July 24 and July 30 in conjunction with the New York Times and CBS News.

"All this matters because half of all likely voters say the economy is the most important issue to their vote, far ahead of any other issue. The saving grace for Governor Mitt Romney is that he roughly breaks even with the president on who is best on the economy," Brown said.

More than half of those polled said presidential candidates should release "several years" of their tax returns. The Obama campaign has called on Romney to release more years of his personal tax records.

Romney has released his 2010 returns and estimates for 2011 but has been reluctant to release more.

Overall, 4 percent of voters in all three states said they were still undecided in the race. In addition, a chunk of voters who did express a preference for one of the candidates said they could still change their mind before Election Day: 10 percent in Florida; 12 percent in Ohio; and 12 percent in Pennsylvania.

Some voters in all three states also said they still had not heard enough about Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and private equity executive: 14 percent in Florida; 15 percent in Ohio; and 11 percent in Pennsylvania.

Only 2 percent in each state said they had not heard enough about Obama.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Will Dunham)

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