Poll shows President Obama ahead in swing states

President Barack Obama has an edge over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in battleground states, according to a new poll. /AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, file

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — President Barack Obama was favored by at least 50 percent of likely voters in the key battleground states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, a poll released Wednesday shows.

Obama had a lead of 11 percentage points, 53-42 percent, over presumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania. The president leads his GOP challenger by a margin of 51 percent to 45 percent in Florida and 50 percent to 44 percent in Ohio in the random telephone poll conducted July 24-30 by Quinnipiac University, CBS and the New York Times. It was the first measure of likely voters in the crucial swing states.

“If today were Nov. 6, President Barack Obama would sweep the key swing states,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “The president is running better in the key swing states than he is nationally.”

No one has won the White House since John F. Kennedy in 1960 without winning at least two of the states.

Roughly three of every five voters in the three crucial states said they supported Obama’s proposal to increase taxes on households making more than $250,000 annually. The president also received broad support among women where he leads Romney by 24 percentage points in Pennsylvania and 21 in Ohio and 7 percentage points in Florida, numbers that generate speculation the former Massachusetts governor could pick a woman as a running mate.

Romney broke even with Obama on the economy, the issue identified as the most important by slightly half of the people surveyed. Ohio’s unemployment is lower than the national average and Florida’s — as touted almost daily by Republican Gov. Rick Scott — is rebounding. Obama was especially strong across the board in Pennsylvania.

“His voters seem more committed to him and Pennsylvanians like him more,” Quinnpiac’s Tim Malloy said.

More than half, 53 percent, said presidential candidates should release several years of tax returns compared to 19 percent who said one or two years should be satisfactory and 23 percent didn’t believe the candidates should be required to release their returns.

Romney has been criticized for not releasing more of his tax returns. Romney, who would be among the nation’s wealthiest presidents if elected, has released just one year of personal income tax returns and promised to release a second but no more.

Brown was unsure of what effect that coverage of Romney’s controversial European visit may have had on the survey.

“It’s hard to know exactly what contributed to what people think,” Brown said Wednesday. “Obviously Romney’s trip to the Europe was in the news for about half the time the poll was in the field.”

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,177 like voters in Florida, 1,193 in Ohio and 1,168 in Pennsylvania. The margin of error in the Florida and Pennsylvania surveys was 2.9 percentage points and 2.8 percentage points in Ohio.

— Associated Press