President Barack Obama leads Mitt Romney in Michigan and Pennsylvania, but the outlook in both states remains uncertain, according to two new polls released Wednesday.
In one of a pair of releases by Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling (PPP), Obama comfortably tops Romney in Michigan, 53 percent to 39 percent. But the 14-point margin runs counter to several other recent public polls that have shown a much more competitive race in the Great Lakes State. A poll conducted by East Lansing, Mich.-based firm Mitchell Research & Communications and released on Tuesday showed Romney edging Obama among likely voters in Michigan, 46 percent to 45 percent.
The latest PPP survey meshes with expectations in the state, which has long been considered favorable terrain for Obama due to his administration’s successful restructuring of the U.S. automotive industry. Wednesday’s poll shows that Obama is widely seen as being better for the automotive industry than Romney, 55 percent to 29 percent. Romney has a strong connection to Michigan, where he was born and raised and his late father, George Romney, served as governor. But PPP’s survey shows that only 22 percent consider the presumptive Republican nominee a Michigander, compared with 67 percent who do not.
The PollTracker Average shows that Michigan still favors Obama, although the race there has clearly tightened since Romney emerged from the Republican nomination contest.
Obama leads Romney by a smaller margin in Pennsylvania, 49 percent to 43 percent. Democrats have carried the state in the previous five presidential elections, but Pennsylvania remains a battleground — and the latest survey shows that Obama might have reason to sweat there. Forty-six percent of Pennsylvania voters approve of the job the president is doing, while 50 percent disapprove. His approval rating among white Pennsylvania voters is even lower: 42 percent approve, compared with 53 percent who disapprove.
Obama’s struggle to win over white voters is nothing new, but its implications could be even greater in 2012, particularly in Pennsylvania. A new state law signed by Gov. Tom Corbett (R) in March will require voters to show a photo ID, and could disenfranchise as many as 750,000 Pennsylvania voters — a number larger than Obama’s margin of victory there over Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in 2008. Many critics believe the voter ID law will disproportionately affect minorities in Pennsylvania, a voting bloc that overwhelmingly prefers Obama. In Wednesday’s PPP survey, Obama wins among black voters, 83 percent to 16 percent. Among white voters, Romney tops Obama by a 1-point, 46 percent to 45 percent.
The PollTracker Average currently shows Obama holding a 5-point advantage over Romney in Pennsylvania.
PPP conducted its surveys July 21-23 using live automated telephone interviews with 758 Pennsylvania voters and 579 Michigan voters. The margin of error for the Pennsylvania sample is 3.6 percentage points and 4.1 percentage points for the Michigan sample.
Tom Kludt is a newswriter for TPM. A former research intern and polling fellow for TPM, he lives and works in New York City. Tom graduated summa cum laude from the University of South Dakota in May of 2010 with a B.A. in Political Science and History. He can be reached at Tom (at) talkingpointsmemo.com.