Raleigh, N.C. — President Barack Obama and likely Republican challenger Mitt Romney are in a virtual tie for North Carolina's 15 electoral votes in this fall's election, according to a WRAL News poll released Tuesday.
SurveyUSA polled 524 likely voters statewide between Friday and Monday and found that 45 percent would vote for Romney and 44 percent for Obama if the election were held now. Six percent remain undecided.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
A month ago, a WRAL News poll had Obama leading in North Carolina by four points, 47 to 43 percent. That poll included registered voters, however, which is a larger group than likely voters.
"The president has had his support eroding (in North Carolina)," said David McLennan, a political science professor at William Peace University in Raleigh. "He's got a big task in front of him."
There are clear divisions between the two candidates along racial and gender lines in the latest poll. Romney, for example, is preferred by male voters by a 51 to 38 percent margin, while Obama is favored by female voters by 50 to 40 percent, according to the poll.
Obama would carry more than 80 percent of the black vote in North Carolina, the poll shows, but Romney holds a 56 to 35 percent edge among white voters and an even larger lead – 52 to 27 percent – among Hispanic voters.
Eighteen percent of Democrats surveyed said they favor Romney, which is three times the number of Republican who would cross over to vote for Obama, according to the poll.
Independent voters break Romney's direction, 45 to 32 percent, according to the poll, but voters who identify themselves as moderate go for Obama by a 48 to 37 percent margin. Obama also is preferred by both upper- and low-income voters, while Romney holds the edge among the middle-class in the poll.
Fifty-five percent of respondents said a candidate's position on same-sex marriage was somewhat or very important in determining how they would vote in November. Obama recently said he favors allowing gay couples to marry, while Romney reiterated his stance that marriage should be reserved for heterosexual couples.
Not surprisingly, four-fifths of voters who support gay marriage back Obama, while two-thirds of voters who want no legal recognition of same-sex couples support Romney. Obama holds a sizable lead among voters who want states to recognize civil unions, and Romney has a similar edge among those who support domestic-partner benefits, according to the poll.
McLennan said Obama is "pushing on two fronts" by waging a battle for same-sex marriage in a state that two weeks ago approved a constitutional amendment to define heterosexual marriage as the only legal union at the same time as he works to improve the economy.
"The president has to hope the economy keeps coming back, and he's also got to get the whole campaign off the issue of same-sex marriage," McLennan said. "He's got to push his own economic plan and really confront Mitt Romney on that."