Inside the polls: Obama's slim lead comes from women, cities

Story highlights

  • Poll shows similar gender gap in Colorado as in the rest of battleground states
  • Another key gap is between urban Denver, Boulder and rural areas
  • When minor-party candidates are factored in, Obama's lead over Romney is trimmed

Five days before the presidential election, polls in some crucial battleground states suggest two things: The race is close, and President Barack Obama appears to have a very slight "inside the sampling error" edge over Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

The president on Thursday ended a three-state swing with a rally in Colorado. A few hours earlier, a CNN/ORC International Poll indicated that 50% of likely Colorado voters support Obama, with 48% backing the former Massachusetts governor. The president's 2-point margin is well within the survey's sampling error.

Tight race in Rocky Mountain battleground

The poll's Thursday release also came on the same day that Rep. Paul Ryan, Romney's running mate, headlined a rally in Greeley, Colorado. The top-line results of the CNN survey are very similar to an American Research Group poll conducted this past weekend that had Romney at 48% and Obama at 47%, and an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll conducted last week that suggested the race was tied at 48%.

"If you didn't know why President Obama and Paul Ryan are here today, and Mitt Romney is coming Saturday, now you know," said CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, who was reporting Thursday from Colorado.

Battleground Blog: 14 things you didn't know about Colorado

As in most swing states, there is a fairly big gender gap, with the CNN poll indicating Romney ahead among men by 10 points and Obama winning with women by 13 points. Income is also an important indicator, with the president holding a big lead among lower-income voters, while voters with more than $50,000 in income last year are tied at 49% for Romney and 49% for Obama.

"But the key may be the split between the Denver area and the rest of Colorado, with the suburbs throughout the state likely to determine the winner," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

According to the survey, Obama beats Romney by nearly 2-1 in the two big urban Democratic strongholds of Denver and Boulder. In the Denver suburbs (Adams, Arapahoe, Jefferson and Broomfield counties), Obama's support drops but he still holds a 53%-45% margin over Romney.

"But the GOP challenger appears to do better in many Front Range suburbs around cities like Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. Combine those Front Range communities with the rural east and west and Romney has a 55%-43% lead once you get beyond the greater Denver area," Holland said.

CNN poll: very tight race in Colorado
CNN poll: very tight race in Colorado


    CNN poll: very tight race in Colorado


CNN poll: very tight race in Colorado 00:59
What do the latest campaign polls mean?
What do the latest campaign polls mean?


    What do the latest campaign polls mean?


What do the latest campaign polls mean? 08:12
Voter enthusiasm key to turnout
Voter enthusiasm key to turnout


    Voter enthusiasm key to turnout


Voter enthusiasm key to turnout 04:48

In the battle for crucial independent voters, the poll indicates the president has a 49%-47% edge.

Time running out for Colorado's undecided voters

King said Obama's strength in Denver and Boulder suggests that Romney is going to need strong turnout among the state's evangelicals and in rural areas.

"Splitting the votes of self-described independents probably isn't good enough for the governor," King said. "He needs to boost that number in the final days to win. And while our poll gives the president a tiny edge, it's also proof his ground operation must deliver in the cities and closest suburbs."

Could minor-party candidates act as spoilers in Colorado?

It's tough to tell, but it is intriguing to note that when three minor party candidates are included in a separate horse race question, a 50%-48% advantage for Obama becomes a 48%-47% margin, with Libertarian Gary Johnson pulling 4% and Green party candidate Jill Stein claiming 1%, and Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode coming in with less than one-half of one percent. Statistically, there is no difference between 50%-48% and 48%-47%, but it does illustrate the potential effect of the minor-party candidates in this extremely close race.

Ninety-four percent of people questioned said they have made up their minds on whom they'll vote for, with 5% saying they could still change their mind.

Nine electoral votes are up for grabs in Colorado, which President George W. Bush carried by 5 points in his 2004 re-election. But four years later, then-Sen. Obama accepted his party's presidential nomination at the Democratic convention in Denver, and he won the state by 9 points over Sen. John McCain in the 2008 election.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International from October 26 to 31 (entirely after the third and final presidential debate), with 984 adults, including 904 registered voters and 733 likely voters, questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error for likely voters is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

In Wisconsin, where 10 electoral votes are at stake, three new surveys have been released over the past 24 hours. According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll, Obama is at 49% and Romney at 46% among likely voters in Ryan's home state. The president's 3-point advantage is within the survey's sampling error.

A Marquette Law School poll indicated Obama with an 8-point (51%-43%) lead in the state, and a St. Norbert College/Wisconsin Public Radio survey had the president at 52% and Romney at 43%. A CNN Poll of Polls that averages all three surveys indicates Obama with a 51%-44% margin over Romney. Ten electoral votes are up for grabs in Wisconsin, which no Republican has won in a presidential election since 1984.

The president campaigned in Wisconsin on Thursday, and Romney stops there Friday.

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A New poll by NBC/WSJ/Marist on Thursday in Iowa gives the president a 6-point 50%-44% advantage. A new survey by the University of Iowa that was conducted over a longer period suggested a closer contest for the state's six electoral votes. An NBC/WSJ/Marist survey in New Hampshire indicates Obama at 49% and Romney at 47% in the battle for the state's four electoral votes.

The race for the White House is a battle for the states and their electoral votes, with 270 being the magic number. The contest will be won or lost in the battleground states and no state is getting more attention than Ohio, where 18 electoral votes are up for grabs.

A CNN Poll of Polls that averages the five nonpartisan, live operator surveys conducted in Ohio after last week's debate indicates Obama at 49% and Romney at 46% among likely voters.

No Republican in modern times has won the White House without carrying Ohio. While the latest public opinion polls give Obama the slight edge, the Romney campaign remains confident.

The swing state of Virginia also is getting a ton of attention. A CNN Poll of Polls that averages the four nonpartisan, live operator surveys conducted in Virginia (13 electoral votes) since the debate indicates Romney at 48% and Obama at 47%.

In Florida, a CBS News/New York Times/Quinnipiac University poll also indicates a race that's tied, with the president at 48% and Romney at 47%. A CNN/ORC International Poll released Monday also showed the race for Florida's 29 electoral votes deadlocked with Romney at 50% and Obama at 49%.

The Obama campaign likes the numbers coming out of the public opinion polls in the swing states.

"We feel very very good about the numbers that we're mounting up in those states," Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod told reporters on Wednesday.

The Romney campaign also says it is in a very good place with a week to go.

"This race is exactly where we had hoped it would be a week out. It is a close race," said senior Romney adviser Russ Schriefer on a conference call on Wednesday.

Election campaign ends with chess match in swing states