e latest polls in three critical battlegrounds - Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin - indicate President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney continuing to run neck-and-neck, though Obama has a slight edge in each of the three states.
The Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times surveys indicated Obama with the backing of 49% of likely voters in Florida, compared to 46% who said they supported Romney. In Ohio, 50% of likely voters backed Obama and 44% backed Romney. And in Wisconsin - the home state of Romney's running mate Paul Ryan - Obama had support of 49% of likely voters, compared to 47% who supported Romney. The president's margins in Florida and Wisconsin are with in the polls' sampling error, and in Ohio Obama's margin is just outside the sampling error.
The numbers reflected only a tiny boost for Romney since he named Ryan his running mate toward the beginning of August. In Florida, support for Romney ticked up one percentage point from a poll taken before Ryan was added to the ticket, and in Wisconsin Romney inched up two percentage points. The Ohio numbers remained identical to a Quinnipiac University survey taken prior to the Paul Ryan announcement.
Thursday's poll in Wisconsin was the third survey since Romney announced Ryan as his running mate showing a tight race in the Badger State. On Wednesday, a Marquette Law School poll showed Obama at 49% and Romney at 46%, and last week a CNN/ORC poll indicted Obama at 49% among registered voters in Wisconsin while Romney was at 45%.
"Gov. Mitt Romney's pick of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate has made some small difference in Florida and Wisconsin, at least at this point, when voters in these three key states are asked about their presidential vote," Peter A. Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, wrote in a statement accompanying the poll's release.
Compared to Vice President Joe Biden, Ryan was seen in a more favorable light. In Florida, the House Budget chairman had a 29% unfavorable rating, compared to 44% for Biden. In Ohio, 27% of voters had an unfavorable impression of Ryan, compared to 40% for Biden. And in Wisconsin, Ryan's home state, the GOP vice presidential candidate had a 35% unfavorable rating, compared to 42% for Biden.
Forty-one percent of voters in Florida said Biden was qualified to become president, compared to 37% who said the same of Ryan. In Ohio, 43% said Biden was qualified, compared to 32% who said the same of Ryan. Forty-one percent of Wisconsin voters said Biden was qualified, compared to 44% who thought Ryan had the qualifications to be president.
"Voters...see Ryan in a more favorable light than they do Vice President Joseph Biden," Brown wrote. "And when voters assess the two running mates' qualifications to become president, Biden is only slightly ahead in Florida and Ohio and slightly behind the seven-term congressman in Wisconsin. In fact, Ryan's qualified/unqualified ratio is better than Biden's."
Medicare, the government-run health care program for senior citizens, is popular in all three states. The issue surfaced as a major issue on the presidential campaign trail when Romney named Ryan as his running mate, since Ryan has proposed a plan in the House that would allow private insurers to compete with traditional Medicare on an exchange.
Ryan says the plan would save Medicare from insolvency, but Democrats say it would amount to a "gutting" of the program that would result in higher costs.
Thursday's polls showed a majority of voters in the three battleground states saying they thought Medicare should continue operating they way it currently does, with the government providing insurance to seniors. Strong majorities also said they thought Medicare was worth the cost to taypayers.
"By more than 4-1 margins, voters in each state say the health care program for the elderly is worth the cost and six in 10 say they favor keeping the current Medicare model," Brown wrote. "But 10 percent of voters in each state would support 'major reductions' in Medicare to reduce the deficit and almost 50 percent would support 'minor reductions.'"
The Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll was conducted by telephone between August 15 - 21. In Florida, 1,241 likely voters were polled; in Ohio, 1,253 were polled, and in Wisconsin, 1,190 were polled. The sampling error in all three states was plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.