Poll: Republicans lead Democrats on key issues in Senate battlegrounds

A new poll shows Republicans leading on nearly every prominent issue in 12 Senate battleground states, a troubling sign for Democrats as they head into the final stretch of a tough election cycle.

The survey, conducted by North Star Opinion Research for NPR, also shows Obama’s approval rating lower in these 12 states than it is nationally, by about 4 points.

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The survey polled 1,000 respondents in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina and West Virginia — 12 states that will be critical in deciding which party controls the Senate this fall.

Democrats are fighting to hold onto a fragile six-seat majority, and Republicans are optimistic at their chances because their path to victory winds through a handful of red states where the president is deeply unpopular.

According to the survey, Obama is seen more negatively overall in these 12 states than he is nationwide. Only 38 percent of likely voters in the battleground states say they approve of his job performance; according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, Obama wins the approval of 42 percent of Americans nationwide.

The survey also shows that respondents in these 12 states trust Republicans more than Democrats on the economy, healthcare and foreign policy, while they’re split on who they trust on the future of the middle class.

That complicates Democrats' election-year strategy to focus on economic issues that they believe are popular with the middle class. A May Washington Post/ABC News nationwide poll out in early May showed Americans trusted Democrats more than Republicans to handle the economy, healthcare and, by a large margin, helping the middle class.

NPR’s poll of battleground states tells a different story, however, and suggests Democrats may have a tougher time winning the policy argument this fall.

The survey was conducted June 6-11, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.