Obama leads Romney by 52 to 44 percent among likely voters. Among all registered voters, the president leads by 50 to 43 percent, a margin identical to that recorded in a survey in early May. That indicates that Romney has made up little apparent ground against the president during four intense months of advertising and campaign visits.
Virginia is critical to Romney’s hopes of winning the White House. Without the commonwealth, his path to 270 electoral votes becomes significantly more difficult. Along with Ohio and Florida, Virginia will be one of the most fiercely contested of all the battleground states until the end, reflecting the importance both campaigns put on its 13 electoral votes.
Virginia rode out the national recession far better than many other states, thanks in part to a huge defense sector, and that appears to be working in the president’s favor. A majority of Virginia voters still say the country as a whole is seriously off on the wrong track, but the percentage who say it is moving in the right direction has jumped 9 percentage points to 41 percent since May.
Obama also receives more positive job performance ratings in Virginia than he does nationally. A majority of voters — 53 percent — say they approve of Obama’s overall job performance and 51 percent give him positive marks for his handling of the economy. In the case of the economy, his marks in Virginia are significantly better than those he received in the most recent Washington Post-ABC News national poll.
Romney has campaigned by arguing that his business background better qualifies him to turn around an economy with an unemployment rate still above 8 percent nationally. But when asked whom they trusted more to deal with the country’s economic problems, voters divided almost evenly. Forty-seven percent side the president ; 45 percent the Republican nominee.
But by a 54 to 37 percent margin, Virginia voters say Obama better understands the economic problems people in the country are having. The survey was completed before the release of a leaked video of Romney at a fundraising event in which he said 47 percent of American voters see themselves as “victims” who are dependent on government.
With looming defense cuts, Virginia’s economy could take a hit in the future, and economic problems generally remain a lingering vulnerability for the president, both in the state and nationally.
Voters offered contrasting views.
“I think he’s actually making some progress, albeit slow, in terms of . . . moving our economy forward,” said Henry F. Robinson of Reston, a 64-year-old recruiting manager for government contractors. “I think he is protective and is concerned about the middle class, and I think that’s where the focus needs to be.”
But Joe Bergin, a 38-year-old defense contractor from Ashburn, said he was leaning toward the GOP ticket for the first time in his life. “Obama, he’s not really favoring government contractors right now,” Bergin said. “It definitely drives me in the direction of Romney right now. . . . I’m primarily concerned about my livelihood.”
Even some Obama supporters would like him to try something new.
“I think he needs to have a stronger economic program in the second term and he may need a different set of advisers, but I think he has the right idea,” said Robert E. Brogan of Falls Church, 61, a safety analyst for the U.S. Department of Transportation. “He needs some cooperation from the other side in terms of spending cuts and tax increases.”
The Post poll highlights the fact that the president is benefiting from strong support among women. Obama now leads among female voters by by 58 to 39 percent; men divide 50 percent for Romney and 44 percent for Obama. Compared to 2008 exit polls, Obama is running somewhat worse among men this year but is doing better among women, who made up a majority of the Virginia electorate four years ago and are expected to again this year.
Obama’s campaign has advertised heavily in parts of Virginia on women’s issues, and in the new poll, the president holds a 22-point advantage among those asked who is trusted on those issues.
Beyond his eight-point lead on the head-to-head match up, Obama holds a clear to overwhelming advantage over Romney on six of 10 issues tested in the new poll. Romney holds a significant advantage on none.
The president enjoys double-digit advantages over his Republican rival on issues ranging from the future of Medicare and Medicaid to advancing the interests of the middle class. Obama and Romney are about even when voters were asked who would do a better job on taxes and the budget deficit.
Obama also leads Romney on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, although overall, those issues rank well below the economy and health care for most Virginia voters.
“I don’t have any issues with gay marriage or pro-choice. Who you fall in love with is not somebody else’s business,” said Tom McIntosh, a 40-year-old budget analyst from Springfield and a Republican. He voted for Obama last time, but intends to vote for Romney because of tax policy. “Those [social] issues are not a big topic for me,” he said.
Obama’s voters also appear more passionate in their support than do Romney’s. About nine in 10 Obama supporters and more than eight in 10 Romney voters said they were enthusiastic in their support. But 61 percent of Obama voters say they are “very enthusiastic,” compared with just 45 percent of Romney voters.
Virginians will have some other choices on the ballot. Former congressman Virgil Goode Jr. has qualified for the presidential ballot in Virginia, as have Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein. But those third-party options did not change Obama’s margin against Romney and they failed to register much support in the poll. Johnson was at 4 percent, Goode at 2 percent and Stein at 1 percent when they are explicitly included in the question.
Republicans have openly fretted that Goode, a conservative who served in Congress as a Democrat, an independent and then a Republican before losing his southwest Virginia seat in 2008, could play the role of spoiler by drawing votes from Romney.
Since it became a two-man race in April, the campaigns and outside groups have spent more than $60 million on more than 11,000 ads in Virginia. That’s given the commonwealth some of the most highly saturated TV markets in the nation. The candidates and their wives also have made more than 40 visits to Virginia since June, making it the third most visited state behind Ohio and Florida.
The poll was conducted by telephone Sept. 12-16 among a random sample of 1,104 adults Virginia, including 934 registered voters. Interviews were conducted on conventional and cellular telephones, and carried out in English and Spanish. The margin of error for registered and likely voter samples is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Errin Haines, Ben Pershing, Peyton M. Craighill and Scott Clement contributed to this report.
Original article on Washington Post