President Barack Obama leads Republican Mitt Romney by 48 percent to 40 percent in the race for Pennsylvania's electoral votes, according to a new survey from the Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics.
While at least one poll survey found Mr. Romney and the president neck-and-neck, the Mercyhurst University findings were in line with a succession of other surveys depicting a wider lead for the president in a state that's received relatively scant campaigning and advertising attention from the two candidates in recent weeks.
In the state's other leading race, Sen. Bob Casey held a relatively comfortable lead over his Republican challenger, Tom Smith, although the survey found an unusually large number of undecided voters with just over a month to go before the Nov. 6 election. The first-term Democrat had the support of 31 percent of the 522 likely voters surveyed compared with 21 percent for Mr. Smith and a whopping 44 percent who said they remained undecided.
The Mercyhurst survey also found that Obama voters were relatively more likely to say their choice was motivated by support for their candidate rather than opposition to his rival. Sixty-three percent of the Obama voters said they strongly supported the president, and another 19 percent said they supported him with reservations; 17 percent said their vote was due to opposition to Mr. Romney.
Just 43 percent of the challenger's voters said they strongly supported him; another 18 percent said they supported him with reservations, and 39 percent said they would vote for Mr. Romney primarily because of their opposition to the incumbent -- more than twice the share of negative motivation as in the Obama campaign.
The Mercyhurst researchers also asked a series of questions designed to assess the impact of religion in voters' thinking. One in 5 voters said religion was an important factor in their decisions, but the vast majority, 77 percent, said a candidate's religion would make no difference to them. The respondents were asked if they could identify the two presidential candidates' religions. Seventy-three percent knew that Mr. Romney was a Mormon, and another 5 percent volunteered that he was a Christian; the balance said they didn't know. Nearly half of the sample, 48 percent, said they did not know Mr. Obama's religion, while 12 percent said they believed he was a Muslim.
A majority of those surveyed said they support the state's controversial voter ID law, although there were clear partisan divides on the issue. While 57 percent of all voters favored the basic ID concept, just 31 percent of the Democrats favored it compared with 90 percent of the Republicans.
The overall results for the poll were consistent with the average of recent polling in the state compiled by the site RealClearPolitics, which finds the president's latest aggregated margin is 49 percent to 41 percent. Susquehanna Polling, in a survey released over the weekend, found Mr. Obama leading his challenger by just 47 percent to 45 percent, within the survey's margin for error. The Philadelphia Inquirer, on the other hand, reported earlier this month that Mr. Obama was leading by 11 percentage points in a state he carried by just over 10 points four years ago.
The Mercyhurst poll was one of a series of battleground state surveys released Monday, all with good news, to varying degrees, for the president. New surveys show him with leads in Colorado, 51 percent to 45 percent; North Carolina, 49-45; Nevada, 51-44; and Iowa, 51-44
Over the weekend, the University of Cincinnati's Ohio Polls found Mr. Obama leading there, 51 percent to 46 percent.
Politics editor James O'Toole: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1562.