The race for the White House has tightened in Virginia, where Mitt Romney is now preferred over Barack Obama by two percentage points -- 47-45 percent. That’s according to a Fox News poll of Virginia likely voters released Thursday. Romney’s edge is within the poll’s margin of sampling error.
The poll shows a nine-point shift in the margin and a four-point increase in support for Romney. A month ago, Obama topped Romney by seven points in this battleground state (50-43 percent).
The president has also lost ground in the state on his job performance and favorable rating.
In 2008, Obama won 52 percent of the vote in Virginia and was the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since 1964.
The biggest shift since September is among independents. They now prefer Romney by 53-31 percent. Last month they were split 43-43 percent.
The race is tight despite Romney’s wide advantage among independents because the poll finds by a five-point margin more voters identify themselves as Democrats -- and almost all of them back their party’s nominee. In the 2008 presidential election, the Fox News exit poll found a six-point advantage in party identification for Democrats.
Some of Romney’s strongest groups include white men (+30 points), veterans and active military voters (+22 points) and voters living in $100,000-plus income households (+12 points).
Obama’s strengths include his support among blacks (+84 points), unmarried women (+32 points) and voters under age 35 (+18 points).
By a six-point margin, women side with Obama (49-43 percent). He had a 12-point edge among women in September.
The president’s support among women is also down from the 53 percent support in the 2008 exit poll. Likewise, Obama’s current 40 percent support among men is far lower than the 51 percent he had in 2008.
Among the six in 10 voters “extremely” interested in the race, Romney leads by 52-44 percent.
In addition, the challenger’s supporters are a bit more enthusiastic: 64 percent of those backing Romney feel it’s “extremely” important he wins, while 60 percent of those supporting Obama feel that way.
Romney is now as popular as Obama in Virginia: 54 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of each. Obama’s favorable rating is down four points from 58 percent last month, while Romney’s is up six points from 48 percent.
More Virginia voters now trust Romney to improve the economy and create jobs by a six percentage-point margin. That’s a reversal from last month when more voters trusted Obama by five points (September 16-18).
On foreign policy, Virginia voters prefer Obama by 6 points -- down from a 13-point advantage in September. More voters also trust Obama on handling Medicare (+5 points).
They favor Romney on cutting government spending (+15 points).
Forty-five percent of Virginia voters think the nation’s economy is getting better, while almost as many -- 42 percent -- say it’s getting worse.
Fully 85 percent of those saying it’s getting better back Obama, while 88 percent of those saying things are getting worse side with Romney. And the Republican challenger is largely favored among the 11 percent who feel things are staying the same: 53-35 percent.
Roughly equal numbers of Virginia voters think the Obama administration’s economic policies have helped the economy (38 percent) as say the policies have hurt (40 percent). One voter in five says Obama’s policies didn’t make a difference either way (18 percent).
Last month, by a five-point margin, more voters said the administration’s policies had done more to help than hurt the economy (42-37 percent).
Virginia voters are divided on the job Obama is doing as president: 48 percent approve and 48 percent disapprove. His approval is down from 53 percent in September.
At the same time nearly half of voters -- 49 percent -- approve of Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s job performance.
The Fox News poll is based on live telephone interviews on landlines and cell phones from October 23 to October 24 among 1,126 randomly-chosen likely voters in Virginia. Likely voters are registered voters who are considered most likely to vote in the November presidential election or have already voted through early/absentee ballot. The poll is conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R). For the total sample, it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.