WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney trails President Obama by just one percentage point in Colorado, according to a major new poll. The former Massachusetts governor received the support of 47 percent of likely voters in the Centennial State, while Obama received 48 percent.
The poll was conducted by Quinnipiac University and sponsored by the New York Times and CBS News. Released seven weeks before election day, it contained several surpises about Coloradan’s views of the two major parties’ presidential nominees.
Romney’s largest drop in support came not from women but men. His advantage among male voters dwindled from 17 points in a previous poll to 9 points. By contrast, Romney’s support among female voters dropped by only one percentage point. He is behind 43-52 among women, while he is ahead 52-43 among men.
Romney’s largest gain in support came from Hispanics. He recorded the support of 31 percent of likely Hispanic voters. That figure is three points higher than the amount he received in a previous poll in August.
Romney had been ahead of Obama 50-45 in the previous poll, in late August. His lead confounded some election experts in part because Obama’s re-election strategy was modeled on that of Sen. Michael Bennett (D-Colo.), who appealed to social liberals and minorities to capture his Senate seat two years ago. Also, more than two-thirds of Colorado voters possess a college degree, a voting bloc that Obama did better with than the previous two Democratic presidential nominees.
Colorado is perceived as a bellwether state, but not only because of its nine electoral votes.
In the previous two presidential elections, the Centennial State has deviated from the national vote by only a few percentage points. In 2004, Bush won the state by 2.2 percentage points more than he did the national vote. He garnered the support of 52.9 percent of Colorado voters and 50.7 percent of voters overall. In 2008, Barack Obama won the state by 0.8 percentage points more than his margin nationally – he received 53.66 percent of the votes cast in Colorado and 52.87 of the votes overall.
Obama is ahead of Romney by a 2 point margin in the RealClearPolitics rolling average, and his approval ratings have risen from 45 percent in January to 49 percent today.
The poll comes at a high-water mark of the Obama campaign. It was conducted Sept.11-17, less than two weeks after the Democratic national convention in Charlotte, N.C. Obama received a post-convention “bounce” that will dissipate if historical trends continue. In addition, the Romney campaign has yet to spend large amounts of money on television advertising and has endured a spate of bad press over the last two weeks.
Nevertheless, the poll confirms some common assumptions about the presidential contest, and some are good for the former Massachusetts governor.
One obstacle to Romney’s path to the White House is voters do not view him as empathetic. Half of Colorado’s likely voters said they do not think he cares about the needs and problems of people like them; 45 percent said they think he does care. By contrast, 55 percent of the state’s likely voters said Obama cares about their needs and problems.
Romney retains an advantage over the president on the economy. Forty-eight percent of likely Colorado voters said Romney would do a better job on the economy, while 47 percent said Obama would do a better job.
Half of of likely Colorado disapprove of the president’s job performance in office, while 47 percent approve. Obama’s deficit of three points contrasts with his showings in Virginia (49 approval, 47 disapproval) and Wisconsin (51 percent approval, 46 percent disapproval).
The poll shows that the presidential contest in Colorado is up for grabs. Three percent of the Centennial State’s likely voters are undecided about their presidential preference, while 6 percent overall said they might change their mind before election day.
Yet Romney might be able to make more inroads with undecided or wavering voters than Obama. While only one percent of likely Colorado voters said they had not heard enough about Obama to form an opinion of his favorability ratings, five percent said this of Romney.