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Story highlights

The presidential race is a squeaker in Colorado and Pennsylvania, a new CNN/ORC poll shows

The states are critical to the campaigns of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

Watch the first presidential debate tonight at 9 p.m. ET on CNN, CNNgo and CNN.com.

CNN —  

Just one point separates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in two states that are critical to both candidates’ chances of becoming president, according to new CNN/ORC polls in Pennsylvania and Colorado.

In Colorado, likely voters break 42% for Trump, 41% for Clinton, 13% for Libertarian Gary Johnson and 3% for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Pennsylvania’s likely voters split 45% for Clinton, 44% for Trump, 6% for Johnson and 3% for Stein. Those divides are well within each poll’s 3.5-point margin of sampling error.

Clinton, Trump poised for historic debate battle

The new results in two battleground states underscore the closeness of the race and come as the candidates prepare to square off Monday night in their high-stakes first debate at Long Island’s Hofstra University.

In both states, sharp divisions among whites by education are evident, with white college graduates choosing Clinton over Trump by 11 points in Pennsylvania and 16 points in Colorado, while whites who do not hold four-year degrees break in Trump’s favor by 19 points in Pennsylvania and 22 points in Colorado.

Read full Colorado results

In Colorado, that education gap is a bigger divide than gender or age, and is even larger than the racial gap in the state. Pennsylvania’s likely voters are more divided than Colorado’s along gender and racial lines. Johnson’s appeal among younger voters appears to be working to Clinton’s detriment in both states. While Trump’s numbers are significantly lower among voters under 45 than among older voters, Clinton’s are roughly the same across age groups, while Johnson’s support multiplies among younger voters.

Clinton fares better in two-way matchups in both states, topping Trump 50% to 47% among likely voters in Pennsylvania and 49% to 47% in Colorado. Though both results are within the polls’ margin of sampling error, the finding suggests she could fare better in each state if third party candidate support dipped.

The two polls come alongside tight national polls and neck-and-neck poll results in several other key battleground states including Ohio, Florida, Nevada and North Carolina.

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In both Colorado and Pennsylvania, the economy stands out as far and away the top voter concern. About half of registered voters in each state, and a similar share of likely voters, call the economy most important out of a list also including terrorism, illegal immigration and foreign policy. And when asked which candidate would better handle the economy, Trump comes out on top in both states, though within each poll’s margin of error.

Clinton holds broad advantages for handling foreign policy in both states, and she tops Trump by 8 points on handling immigration in Colorado, a state where a Pew Research Center analysis recently estimated that about a quarter of the state’s sizable Latino population is foreign born. In Pennsylvania, the two candidates run about even on that issue. And in the wake of terror attacks in New York and New Jersey, voters in both states are about evenly split on who would better handle terrorism.

Read full Pennsylvania results

The poll suggests Clinton has made an effective case that Trump does not have the temperament to be president – she is viewed as better suited for the presidency by a nearly two-to-one margin in each state on that score – and she holds smaller advantages as the better candidate to be commander-in-chief. But Clinton continues to lag behind Trump when voters are asked which of the two is more honest and trustworthy.

Trump’s contention that Clinton lacks the stamina for the job splits voters in Colorado, 48% see him as having the better stamina, 45% choose Clinton. In Pennsylvania, Trump holds a larger advantage on that, 50% to 45%.

Democrats have a narrow edge in the race for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seat, with Katie McGinty topping incumbent Pat Toomey 49% to 46% among likely voters, just inside the poll’s margin of error, and a broad lead in Colorado’s Senate contest, with incumbent Michael Bennet up 53% to 43% over Republican challenger Darryl Glenn.

The CNN/ORC Polls in Colorado and Pennsylvania were conducted by telephone Sept. 20-25. The Colorado poll included interviews with 1,010 adult residents of the state, including 784 who are likely to vote in November. In Pennsylvania, interviews were conducted with 1,032 adult residents of the state, including 771 likely voters. Results for likely voters have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points in each state.