TIME Poll: Obama Leads by 5 in Ohio

Buoyed by early voting in his favor, Barack Obama leads Mitt Romney by five points in the pivotal state of Ohio, according to a new TIME poll.

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President Barack Obama, joined by Vice President Joe Biden, speaks during a campaign event at Triangle Park in Dayton, Ohio, on Oct. 23, 2012.

Columbus, Ohio

Buoyed by early voting in his favor, Barack Obama leads Mitt Romney by five points in the pivotal state of Ohio, according to a new TIME poll.

Counting both Ohioans who say they will head to the polls on November 6, and those who have already cast a ballot, Obama holds a 49% to 44% lead over Romney in a survey taken Monday and Tuesday night.

The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

The poll makes clear that there are really two races underway in Ohio. On one hand, the two candidates are locked in a dead heat among Ohioans who have not yet voted but who say they intend to, with 45% of respondents supporting the President and 45% preferring his Republican challenger.

(INTERACTIVE: 2012 Electoral College Calculator Map)

But Obama has clearly received a boost from Ohio’s early voting period, which began on Oct. 2 and runs through November 5. Among respondents who say they have already voted, Obama holds a two-to-one lead over Romney, 60% to 30%.

When those two groups are combined, the TIME poll reveals, Obama leads by five points overall in Ohio.

“At least for the early vote, the Obama ground game seems to be working,” says Mark Schulman, president of Abt SRBI, which conducted the poll.

Nearly one third of all Ohioans voted early in 2008.

The survey also suggests Obama is riding a wave of optimism in Ohio, where voters appear to separate their worries about the direction of the nation from how they regard the landscape in the Buckeye State. While 54% of Ohio voters believe the country is on the wrong track (and 41% believe the nation is heading in the right direction), 51% of Ohio voters believe their state is on the right track (while 43% disagree).

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The TIME survey shows the gender gap is working in Obama’s favor: the President is winning 56% of the women’s vote in Ohio, while Romney is winning only 37% of women. By comparison, 51% of Ohio men back Romney while 42% of men prefer Obama.

While Romney is winning 49% of white voters, Obama is still attracting the support of 43% of that demographic group, a level well above what polls say he is winning in some other states. Obama is running strongest among voters under 40; Romney fares best among voters 65 and older. Romney is ahead of Obama among Ohio independents, winning 53% to Obama’s 38%.

Ohioans give Romney a four point edge in handling the economy, 50% to 46%, but Obama enjoys a 49% to 44% margin on foreign policy. Respondents sided with Obama, 50% to 44%, on the question of which candidate would better represent the interests of the middle class.

Both campaigns have camped out extensively in Ohio, a bellwether state crucial to the Electoral College map. Ohio has sided with the winner in 27 of the past 29 presidential election cycles.

The poll, conducted for TIME by Abt SRBI, surveyed 783 likely Ohio voters on Oct. 22 and Oct. 23. Full results are available here.

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