Reporting from Washington — President Obama’s standing with voters in 12 battleground states appears to be on the rise as views of the economy and the direction of the country have improved slightly, according to a new poll of voters in so-called purple states.
Thirty-six percent of those voters say the country is moving in the right direction, up from just 20% in November. More than two-thirds – 70% -- said in November that the country was moving in the wrong direction. That number has fallen to 57%.
Obama’s job approval rating also has improved, to 46% from 41% in September.
The Purple Poll surveyed voters in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.
The poll, which has a sampling error of 2 percentage points, surveyed 1,424 voters in those states from Friday through Monday. The survey used automated telephone interviews, which are not considered as reliable as live interviews.
Much has been made of the increase in gas prices as a potential problem for Obama, but the poll of purple state voters found that half said they would not blame him if gas prices were to continue to go up. Still, a large chunk – 45% -- said they would blame him.
The poll also showed that Democrats continued to be perceived as the party that cares more about issues that are important to women. Fifty-one percent of independent voters believe this to be so, compared with 24% who believe the Republicans care more about women’s issues.
And as Mitt Romney continues his march toward the Republican presidential nomination, the poll suggests trouble for the presumed GOP front-runner.
More than half of purple state voters – 56% -- view him unfavorably, up from 39% in September. Just 29% view him favorably, down from 32% in September.
In November, Romney and Obama were tied in a hypothetical general election matchup. Now, Obama leads Romney, 48% to 44%.
More than half of respondents – 58% -- said they believed the GOP primary fight was weakening the eventual nominee.
Another poll, this one by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, suggests that if Newt Gingrich were to drop out of the Republican presidential race, Rick Santorum would have a slight lead over Romney, 41% to 40%, among Republican primary voters.
Still, Romney appeared strong by another measure, with 61% of his supporters saying they would definitely support him, compared with 48% who said they’d definitely support Santorum. Santorum is more well-liked than Romney, but his favorability is on the decline, dropping 13 percentage points since last month.
The poll surveyed 734 Republican primary voters nationwide late last week, also through automated telephone interviews.
Obama gains in 'purple' states as GOP primary goes on