WASHINGTON -- New surveys in key battleground states released Wednesday continue to confirm what national polls have shown over the past 10 days. President Barack Obama got a modest boost to his standing against Republican nominee Mitt Romney from the party conventions, bolstered by modest gains on the economy and a big perceived advantage over Romney as someone who cares more about the needs of ordinary people.
The latest polls released by CBS News and The New York Times and conducted by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute give Obama narrow leads in Virginia and Wisconsin and show a nearly even race in Colorado. The surveys were conducted over six days, September 11 to 17, through calls to randomly selected landline and mobile phones beginning five days after the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention.
In Virginia, the new CBS/Times/Quinnipiac poll shows Obama leading by five percentage points (51 to 46 percent), a lead that is just slightly narrower than the 53 to 46 percent margin by which he carried the state four years ago. Two more polls conducted over the same period by the Washington Post and the Democratic Party affiliated firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) also showed Obama leading in Virginia, although the Post poll gave him a slightly bigger margin (52 to 44 percent) than PPP (51 to 45 percent).
The new HuffPost Pollster poll tracking model, which combines all available polls and works to control for consistent "house effect" differences among pollsters, now shows Obama leading Romney in Virginia by roughly three percentage points.
In Wisconsin, the CBS/Times/Quinnipiac poll gives Obama a similar advantage of six percentage points (51 to 45 percent). An automated PPP poll conducted last week and sponsored by Democracy for America showed Obama with just a one-point edge (49 to 48 percent) in the state.
Obama carried Wisconsin by 14 percentage points in 2008, but the selection of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as Romney's running mate is expected to make for a much closer race there this year. Three surveys conducted in August just before the Republican convention but after Ryan's selection had yielded narrower margins.
The HuffPost Pollster tracking model, which had indicated a nearly even race in Wisconsin since mid-August, now shows Obama expanding his lead in Wisconsin to roughly three percentage points.
The new CBS/Times/Quinnipiac poll shows a closer race in Colorado, with Obama holding a one-point advantage (48 to 47 percent), although that result is an improvement for Obama over the five point Romney lead they found on an earlier survey conducted in early August. A Rasmussen automated poll conducted on Sunday gave Romney a two-point edge there.
The HuffPost Pollster tracking model shows a similar though far more muted pattern in Colorado as compared to the other states: A narrowing in mid August followed by a very slight gain for Obama since the conventions.
Responses to additional questions on the CBS/Times/Quinnipiac surveys help illustrate the obstacles that each campaign must overcome. For Obama, the primary challenge comes from the still sluggish economy. Only about a third of the voters in all three states said they think the United States is better off now than it was four years ago, with nearly half saying the country is "worse off today." Fewer still -- about a quarter of the voters in the three states -- said their own families are better off.
Yet voters were more divided in their outlook on Obama's economic policies. Slightly more than half the voters in Virginia (54 percent) and Wisconsin (54 percent) and nearly half in Colorado (49 percent) said that Obama's policies are either improving the economy or "will do so if given time."
Voters were also nearly evenly divided about whether Obama or Romney would do a better job on the economy, with Obama holding slight advantages in Virginia (49 to 47 percent) and Wisconsin (49 to 46 percent) and Romney with a one-point edge (48 to 47 percent) in Colorado. These numbers have improved for Obama by a few percentage points in all three states since early August.
Obama's one big advantage over Romney continues to be the perception that he better understands the lives of ordinary Americans. The CBS/Times/Quinnipiac surveys asked separately about whether Obama and Romney "cares about the needs and problems of people like you." That comparison produced double digit advantages for Obama in all three states. In Colorado, 55 percent said Obama cares, while just 45 percent said the same for Romney. In Virginia, 59 percent said Obama cares, compared to 44 percent for Romney. And in Wisconsin, 60 percent said Obama cares, while 43 percent said Romney does.