Mr. Obama leads his Republican rival 51% to 45% among likely voters in Wisconsin and 51% to 43% in Iowa, according to the latest Journal surveys.
The margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points in Wisconsin and 2.9 points in Iowa. The surveys were conducted Oct. 15 to 17, with roughly half the respondents interviewed before Tuesday's debate.
Those numbers resemble the results of similar surveys taken in September, when the president led Mr. Romney by 5 percentage points in Wisconsin and by 8 percentage points in Iowa.
"You have to reset back into mid-September," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the polls. "That's where we are in these two states."
The race looks far closer at the national level, with Mr. Romney catapulting ahead of the president in some surveys. His lead over Mr. Obama has grown to 7 percentage points, 52% to 45%, among likely voters in the latest seven-day tracking poll conducted by Gallup.
The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News national poll, conducted in late September before Mr. Romney's strong performance in the first presidential debate, showed the president leading Mr. Romney 49% to 46% among likely voters.
The new surveys find that Mr. Romney's image has improved slightly in Wisconsin, where 47% of likely voters there have a positive impression of him and 47% view him in a negative light. That is a slight uptick from the September survey, in which 43% of likely voters viewed him positively and 46% negatively.
But the numbers in Iowa suggest that Mr. Romney still has work to do to repair an image battered by millions of dollars in negative ads, as well as his own missteps. Fifty-one percent of likely voters in the Hawkeye State have an unfavorable opinion of Mr. Romney, compared with the 44% who view him favorably. In September, the spread was 50% to 42%.
"Iowa is clearly a more difficult state for Romney right now than Wisconsin," Mr. Miringoff said.
Polls suggest the race is closer in the Midwest than any other region of the country. In the last Journal/NBC News national poll, the president and Mr. Romney were essentially deadlocked in the Midwest, with Mr. Obama leading, 49% to 47%. And seven of the top-10 markets seeing the most presidential campaign ads this week are in Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin, according media tracking information reported by NBC News.
The new surveys suggest that Mr. Obama is banking the most votes during the early voting period before Election Day on Nov. 6. Roughly one-third of the likely voters in Iowa said they already have cast ballots. Mr. Obama garnered twice as much support from those early voters as his Republican rival, leading, 67% to 32%.
However, the official figures vary. As of Wednesday night, voters had cast ballots equal to 18% of the total number of votes cast in 2008. Some 140,631 Democrats have cast ballots, compared with the 86,249 Republicans.
Mr. Romney has an edge among those voters who are most enthusiastic to cast ballots. In Wisconsin, 68% of Romney supporters expressed a high level of enthusiasm for the coming election, while 63% of the president's supporters expressed similar excitement.
In Iowa, 64% of Romney supporters said they are very excited to vote for the Republican nominee, compared with the 53% of Obama backers. The Iowa tally marks an increase for Mr. Romney from a similar poll taken in September.
Tuesday's debate appeared to have moved few voters from one column to the other, pollsters said. Some 95% in both states said they had settled on a candidate before the debate, and Mr. Obama led his GOP rival by essentially the same margin before the debate as among those polled after.
"You just don't have a lot of people who are still shopping around," said Mr. Miringoff.
—Danny Yadron contributed to this article.
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