Poll: Obama leading Romney in three key battleground states

A new poll finds President Obama leading GOP candidate Mitt Romney in three key swing states, but with continuing voter doubts that either candidate can right the struggling economy. 

Obama tops Romney in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, according to a new Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News survey.

In Pennsylvania, Obama has the support of 53 percent of likely voters to Romney’s 42. In Ohio the president tops Romney 50 percent to 44 and holds a similar 6-point edge in Florida, leading 51 percent to 45.

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Obama carried all three states in 2008. They are among 12 battlegrounds that will likely determine the outcome of the presidential contest.

Voters overwhelmingly rate the economy as the most important issue in determining their vote for president, and the poll holds troubling signs for both campaigns. Fifty-four percent say the economy is the top issue in Pennsylvania, along with 48 percent in Ohio and 52 percent in Florida. 

On the economy, Obama holds a slight edge over Romney in two states, with voters in Pennsylvania saying he would do a better job by 48 percent to 44 and in Ohio by 46-45. In Florida, though, voters opt for Romney by 47-45.

A plurality of voters in each state, however, say if Obama is reelected, his policies would hurt their personal finances. Thirty-seven percent in Pennsylvania say an Obama second term would hit them in the pocketbook, with 23 percent saying his policies would help. In both Ohio and Florida 38 percent say Obama’s policies would negatively affect their finances, with 26 percent in Ohio and 23 percent in Florida saying they would help.


Romney faces similar skepticism, with 26 percent in Pennsylvania and Ohio and 31 in Florida saying his policies would help their finances. 

The poll also finds the Obama campaign’s attacks on Romney’s record as CEO of private equity giant Bain Capital resonating with voters. Voters say Romney’s record was more “focused on making profits” as opposed to providing him with the “right kind of experience” to manage an economic turnaround by 51 to 42 percent in Pennsylvania, 50 to 41 in Ohio and 48 to 42 in Florida.

A majority of voters agree that Romney should release additional tax returns, a key point in Obama attack ads asking the GOP candidate to disclose more about his offshore holdings. Fifty-four percent in Pennsylvania, 51 in Ohio and 53 in Florida say presidential candidates should publicly release “several years” of tax records.

Most voters expect the nation’s economy to remain the same or get worse. In Pennsylvania, 20 percent say the national economy will get better, with 26 percent in Ohio and Florida showing similar optimism. 

Ohio voters, though, are more positive about their own state’s prospects, with 33 percent saying the Buckeye State’s economy will improve. Sixteen percent of Pennsylvanian and 23 percent of Floridian voters expect a better state economy.

The polls continue to find Obama with more personal appeal than his GOP rival. The president holds a net positive rating in all three states, with a majority of voters saying they have a favorable view of the incumbent.

Romney, though, is under water in all three states. Forty-seven percent of Pennsylvania voters hold an unfavorable opinion of the presumptive GOP nominee, to 39 percent favorable. Ohio's likely voters rate Romney 43 percent unfavorable to 40 percent favorable, and in Florida Romney is at 42 percent unfavorable to 41 favorable.

A majority of voters in all three states say Obama is concerned about the issues that matter to them. Fifty-eight percent in Pennsylvania and 55 in Ohio and Florida say Obama “cares about the needs and problems of people.” For Romney, 39 percent in Pennsylvania, 38 in Ohio and 42 in Florida agree with that sentiment. 

Obama scores a net positive job approval figure in Pennsylvania, with 49 percent approving of his performance as president to 46 percent disapproving. In both Ohio and Florida, however, Obama’s approval rating is split with 48 percent approval and 48 disapproval. 

Republicans have made opposition to the president’s signature healthcare reform law a centerpiece of their 2012 messaging, but that issue ranks a distant second, with 20 percent of voters in Pennsylvania, 20 in Ohio and 22 in Florida saying it is the most important issue.

The poll was conducted from July 24-30 and has a 3-point margin of error.