Romney has built his lead among independents, who now favor the Republican challenger 54-35 percent. That's a double-digit improvement from March, and a significant shift from February, when the president led by two points with independents.

Independents were also wary of the direction of the country, with 65-28 percent saying the United States was headed in the wrong direction.

“Both candidates have strong support from their bases, so the shift of unaffiliated voters toward Romney is significant,” Civitas President Francis X. De Luca said in a statement. “He can’t win North Carolina without them. And without North Carolina, he is unlikely to win the White House.”

North Carolina Democrats downplayed the results, saying the poll undersampled core areas of Obama support.

“Either the folks at Civitas are trying to manipulate numbers to downplay two bad weeks for the Romney campaign or they need to go back to 10th grade statistics," said Jamie Crain, a spokesperson for the North Carolina Democratic party. " No pollster in the country would believe Romney is winning the Hispanic vote by 29 points in North Carolina nor does that population make up 6% of the electorate.  What’s more, key Obama demographics such as African Americans and Democrats were under-sampled.  It’s hard to find a component of this poll that passes the smell test.”