PPP's newest poll of the Presidential race in North Carolina finds Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney 48-47. That sort of razor thin margin has been the constant in PPP's 19 monthly polls of the state dating back to November of 2010. Only once has either Obama or Romney led by more than a 3 point margin, suggesting the state's headed for the same sort of photo finish it had in 2008.
This month's poll does represent an improvement for Romney. The one time the race strayed from a 3 point margin one way or the other was last month, when Obama led by 5 points. Since wrapping up the Republican nomination Romney's seen a 13 point improvement in his net favorability from -29 (29/58) to -16 (37/53). He's still not popular, but his standing with independents and GOP voters is getting a lot better as conservatives unify around him for the general.
Republicans have moved from supporting Romney by an 84-7 margin to a 90-5 one in the last month. He's also flipped independent voters, going from a 51-38 disadvantage with them to a narrow 48-44 lead.
Obama maintains strong advantages with several key groups that should ensure North Carolina remains closely contested right on through the fall. He's up 53-43 with women, reflective of the GOP's struggles with that voter group everywhere. He has a 55-35 advantage with young voters, showing little slippage from our polling in 2008 with them. And he's polling at 87% with African Americans and more importantly we continue to see high levels of enthusiasm from black voters, making it likely that they'll again comprise 23% of the electorate as they did in 2008.
There's been some discussion about North Carolina Senator Richard Burr as a potential running mate, but his impact would be negligible in the state. With him on the ticket Obama's lead would basically remain unchanged at 48-46. Burr is one of the most anonymous Senators in the country- 35% of North Carolinians have no opinion about him one way or the other with those who do have one closely divided.
There's been a lot of debate over the last month about whether North Carolina is really a swing state. Our polls over the last year and a half certainly suggest that it is, and I doubt either Obama or Romney will end up taking it by more than 3 points. We also put the question to the voters and 58% of them think North Carolina will be a swing state to only 20% who believe it will not. This is one thing there's a bipartisan consensus on- 62% of Democrats, 56% of Republicans, and 53% of independents believe that it will be this fall. Barring a huge shift in the national political climate over the next six months it's going to be close.
Full results here