Romney Ahead Nationally, Obama Ahead Where it Matters

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Now that the Republican primary is over, the race between Mitt Romney and President Obama is getting closer. Romney has the edge nationally, but Obama has the edge in the states that matter. Here's our guide to today's polls and why they matter.

Findings: Mitt Romney is beating Barack Obama 48 percent to 47 percent among likely voters 
PollsterPolitico/ George Washington University
Methodology: Survey of 1,000 likely voters from April 29 to May 3.
Why it matters: The poll finds Romney with a 10-point lead among independent voters, though a smaller, 6-point lead among people who say they're "extremely likely" to vote in the general election. Not surprisingly, the issue Obama is most vulnerable on is the economy -- 39 percent say he made it worse, 40 percent say he made it better, and 19 percent say he didn't affect it one way or the other. And 34 percent think the economy's still in a recession, or close to one, while 42 percent the economy is growing and 22 percent think it's stagnant.
Caveat: There are 183 days till the election.

Findings: But in swing states, Obama is beating Romney 47 percent to 45 percent.
PollsterUSA Today/ Gallup
Methodology: Survey from April 26 to May 2 of 951 registered voters scattered among these states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New MexicoNorth Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Why it matters: Because of the electoral college, only a handful of states pick the president, and there's no advantage for Obama to run up the vote tally in California or Romney to try to turnout lots of voters in Texas. The poll also finds that Obama's advantage among women peaked in March -- it was 17 points then, compared to 12 points in February and 12 points now. Like the Politico survey, the USA Today poll finds problems for Obama on the economy, as 60 percent say Romney would do a good or very good job on the economy, while only 52 percent say that of Obama.
Caveat: Polls of likely voters are usually considered more reliable than polls of registered voters.

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Findings: Employers plan to increase recruiting of new grads on college campuses by 10.2 percent this year -- up from a September projection of a 9.5 percent increase. But only 49 percent of kids who graduated between 2009 and 2011 found full-time work within a year of graduating. Three years earlier, that number was 73 percent.
PollsterNational Association of Colleges and Employers; John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University
Methodology: NACE survey of 160 member organizations from February 8 to March 19.
Why it matters: Parents only have so much patience when it comes to an adult child living in their basement. Young people are an important part of Obama's base.
Caveat: The unemployment rate among people between the ages of 20 and 24 who have bachelor's degrees is still lower than the general population -- 6.4 percent compared to 8.1 percent, as The Wall Street Journal points out.

Findings: Sen. Jon Tester leads challenger Denny Rehberg in Montana by 48 percent to 43 percent.
PollsterPublic Policy Polling
Methodology: Robo-calls to 934 Montana voters from April 24 to April 29.
Why it matters: Republicans want to recapture a majority in the Senate -- and this is one of the races that gives them a shot at doing it. Conservative columnist George Will even suggested winning the Senate should be a higher priority than electing Romney present, since the latter looked like a lost cause. Interestingly, PPP finds that Romney leads Obama in Montana by only 5 points -- half the lead he had five months ago, and a closer margin then you would expect, the pollster says. But if Obama couldn't flip Montana in 2008, there's very little chance he could in 2012.
Caveat: PPP is a Democratic firm. The only other firm regularly conducting polls in Montana is fellow robo-caller Rasmussen, which leans right. Rasmussen's latest poll finds Rehberg up by 10 points, expanding a 3-point lead from a month ago.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.