A new poll finds President Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney locked in tight races in three key battleground states, but with voters split on the economy.

An NBC News/Marist poll released Thursday shows Obama with a slight edge in Michigan and North Carolina and the two candidates deadlocked in New Hampshire.

But on the central issue for many voters, jobs and the economic recovery, the survey’s findings show openings for both candidates to bolster their support.


In Michigan, voters back Obama on the economy over Romney 44 percent to 42, while Romney holds the edge in New Hampshire, with his policies being favored by 46 percent to the president’s 42. In North Carolina the two are deadlocked, with 43 percent backing each contender.

"The economy plays both ways in all three states," says Marist College Institute for Public Opinion Director Lee Miringoff.

But voters also support Obama’s argument that the nation’s poor economic conditions were mostly inherited by the administration. 

In Michigan, 57 percent say the weak economy is mostly the result of problems inherited by Obama, to 33 percent who say his own policies are to blame. In North Carolina, as well, voters believe the economy’s struggles were inherited by 55 to 33 percent, and do so in New Hampshire by 58 to 32.

The poll also finds voters optimistic about the future of the nation’s economy.

In both New Hampshire and Michigan, 55 percent of registered voters say the “worst is behind” the country, with regards to the economy, to 35 percent who fear conditions will worsen. In North Carolina, 49 percent believe the worst is over to 41 who worry the economy’s struggles will deepen.

Overall, the polls show both candidates deadlocked about four months before the general election in the crucial swing states.

In Michigan, Obama tops Romney with 44 percent support from registered voters surveyed to 39. Obama’s lead shrinks, though, to a 47-43 lead when voters who have yet to decide but are leaning toward a candidate are included in the tally.

In North Carolina, Obama again tops Romney, but his 46-44 advantage falls within the poll’s margin of error. And in New Hampshire, the two men are tied at 45 percent support apiece.

"Everything is very close," Miringoff said.

Obama carried all three states in 2008, and they are among 12 swing states that will decide the outcome of the election. 

In all three states, Obama’s approval rating remains net positive or break-even, with 48 percent in Michigan approving of his job performance, against 42 percent who do not. In New Hampshire Obama’s rating is at 47 percent favorable to 45 unfavorable, and in North Carolina his favorable/unfavorable numbers are matched at 47 percent.

In all three states, Obama holds net favorability ratings, while voters hold an unfavorable view of Romney.

The three Marist state polls were conducted from June 24-25 and have a 3-point margin of error.