Polls show North Carolina as Romney’s best pickup opportunity

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Two new polls released on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte show the host state to be on the outer edge of the 2012 battleground states that President Obama carried four years ago.

A new Elon University poll conducted for the Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer gives Republican challenger Mitt Romney a 47% to 43% advantage over Obama. Another, from the Democratic-affiliated Public Policy Polling, has the candidates deadlocked at 48% each.

Including other recent surveys, the Real Clear Politics average for North Carolina shows the GOP nominee with a 1.2 percentage point lead over the president, the only battleground state where Romney holds a lead.


Four years ago, Obama won North Carolina by just more than 14,000 votes, becoming the first Democratic nominee to take the state since 1976. Democrats chose to host their convention in Charlotte in hopes of replicating the boost their campaign infrastructure got in Colorado after the 2008 convention in Denver.

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The state, however, continues to struggle economically, with an unemployment rate above the national average. The Elon poll found voters preferred Romney by a 13-point margin on handling the economy, which was identified by 48% of respondents as the most important issue.

The Elon survey was conducted Aug. 25-30, a span that included all three full days of the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla. PPP’s survey was conducted from Aug. 31-Sept. 2, just after the convention.

One reason for the differing results in the two surveys: how the pollsters projected likely turnout. For Elon’s survey sample, 77% of respondents were white, compared with 73% of the PPP sample. Exit polls in 2008 showed that white voters made up 72% of the turnout.

“Obama won North Carolina by a very thin margin and largely due to a high turnout of minority voters. If Obama is going to win the state again, that level of turnout will likely have to repeat itself,” said Elon pollsters Kenneth Fernandez and Jason Husser.
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