Polls Show Close Races in Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia

Steven Shepard

New battleground-state polls released on Thursday show tight presidential contests in Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia, three states that President Obama wrestled away from Republicans in his historic 2008 election. Obama holds statistically-insignificant leads in all three states, while a separate poll in New Hampshire shows him with an advantage outside the margin of error.

Taken together, the polls suggest that Obama has not fully engaged his 2008 coalition in his reelection bid against Republican Mitt Romney, though other surveys released this week have shown him with larger leads in vote-rich states like Florida and Ohio.

The Nevada, New Hampshire, and North Carolina polls were conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on behalf of NBC News and The Wall Street Journal. The Virginia poll was conducted by the Boston-based Suffolk University Political Research Center, sponsored by WWBT-TV in Richmond.


Obama leads Romney in Nevada, 49 percent to 47 percent, according to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll. One percent of likely voters prefer another candidate, and 3 percent are undecided.

Though each candidate wins more than 90 percent of their own partisans, Romney holds the advantage among self-identified independent voters, 52 percent to 40 percent. Three-in-10 respondents identified as independents, compared to 38 percent Democrats and 31 percent Republicans.

Romney leads among white voters, 55 percent to 41 percent. Marist did not provide breakouts for minority groups, but Obama leads among nonwhite voters, 67 percent to 30 percent.

In 2008, according to exit polls, Obama won 94 percent of the African-American vote and 76 percent of the Hispanic vote; results were not reported for other minority groups due to small sample sizes. Marist, National Journal has learned, did not allow respondents to complete the live-caller survey in a language other than English.

Voters have mixed feelings about both candidates. Half have a favorable opinion of Obama, compared to 47 percent who view him unfavorably. Meanwhile, 45 percent view Romney favorably, versus 48 percent unfavorably.

Asked which candidate would do a better job handling the economy, 48 percent pick Romney, versus 47 percent for Obama. Obama holds a negligible advantage on foreign policy, 48 percent to 45 percent.

New Hampshire

Obama leads Romney, 51 percent to 44 percent, outside the NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll's margin of error. Five percent are undecided or prefer another candidate.

Unlike Nevada, independents give Obama a sizable advantage in the Granite State, 53 percent to 40 percent. Self-identified independents make up nearly half of the state's electorate, while Democrats and Republicans evenly split the other half, according to the poll.

Romney leads among men by 5 points, but Obama wins female voters by a commanding 20-point margin.

Obama has a net-favorability rating of plus-11 points (54 percent favorable, 43 percent unfavorable). Romney's is minus-9 (43 percent favorable, 52 percent unfavorable).

Likely voters prefer Obama when it comes to the economy by a narrow, 3-point margin, 49 percent to 46 percent. But, on foreign policy, Obama holds a significant advantage, leading 54 percent to 41 percent.

North Carolina

Obama leads 48 percent to 46 percent in the Tar Heel State, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll shows, with 6 percent of likely voters choosing another candidate or undecided.

As in Nevada, each candidate wins more than 90 percent of members of their own party, but Romney edges Obama among independents, 49 percent to 40 percent. Thirty-nine percent of voters identify as Democrats, 31 percent as Republicans, and 30 percent as independents.

The North Carolina poll features a stark racial gap. Romney holds a commanding lead among white voters, 61 percent to 33 percent. But nonwhite voters go overwhelmingly for Obama, 87 percent to 11 percent.

North Carolina voters are split on both candidates. Half view Obama favorably, while 46 percent have an unfavorable opinion. Romney is viewed favorably by 46 percent and unfavorably by 45 percent.

Voters are split on which candidate they think would do a better job handling the economy (47 percent Romney, 46 percent Obama), but Obama has the advantage on foreign policy, 49 percent to 42 percent.


Obama leads Romney, the Suffolk University poll shows, 47 percent to 45 percent, when voters leaning toward one of the candidates are counted. Prior to allocating leaners, Obama holds a similar 2-point lead, 46 percent to 44 percent. Only 1 percent of likely voters say they will vote for former Republican Rep. Virgil Goode, a Virginian who is running on the Constitution Party line. Seven percent are undecided.

Obama wins 93 percent of Democrats, while Romney captures 96 percent of Republicans. Each candidate wins 36 percent of independents; 21 percent of unaffiliated voters are undecided.

Romney leads among white voters, 56 percent to 36 percent. That is close to Sen. John McCain's margin among whites in 2008, per the exit polls -- 60 percent to 39 percent. Obama wins only four in five black voters, less than the 92 percent he took in 2008, though the sample size for African-American voters in the new poll is small. Thirteen percent of black voters are undecided.

Obama leads Romney in the Washington suburbs, 58 percent to 33 percent, while Romney holds a slight edge in areas of southeast Virginia. The race is closest in the Richmond area.


The NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls were conducted Sept. 23-25. Pollsters surveyed 984 likely voters in Nevada, 1,012 in New Hampshire, and 1,035 in North Carolina. The margin of error for each survey is plus-or-minus 3.1 percentage points.

The Suffolk University/WWBT-TV poll was conducted Sept. 24-26, surveying 600 likely voters, for a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.