WASHINGTON: U.S. President Barack Obama is ahead in three key battleground states where he is also seen as the candidate best able to handle an international crisis, according to a new poll out Wednesday.
The Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll -- carried out during and after last week's Middle East turmoil -- gave Obama the lead over Mitt Romney in Virginia, Wisconsin and Colorado, all crucial 2012 swing states.
Obama leads Romney 51-45 percent in Wisconsin -- the home state of Romney's running mate, Representative Paul Ryan -- 50-46 percent in Virginia and 48-47 percent in the western mountain state of Colorado, the poll found.
Obama won all three states in 2008, when he became the first Democrat to win Virginia since 1964.
The survey found that Obama had gained some ground on handling the economy -- which has been the central issue of the campaign -- and was way ahead of Romney when it comes to weathering a foreign crisis.
On the economy the two candidates remained neck-and-neck in all three states, with Obama ahead 49-46 percent in Wisconsin and the two within the three-point margin of error in the other two states.
But Obama was judged best able to handle an international crisis by a 50-43 percentage point margin in Colorado, 53-42 percent in Virginia and 53-41 percent in Wisconsin, according to the survey.
He also held an advantage on the issue of national security and terrorism in all three states, after trailing Romney 50-41 percent in Colorado in the same survey last month.
The poll was carried out September 11-17, as protests over an anti-Islam Internet video erupted outside US embassies and consulates across the Middle East and North Africa, including the Libyan city of Benghazi, where a US ambassador and three other Americans were killed in a deadly attack.
Romney faced a barrage of criticism when he accused Obama of sympathizing with the demonstrators in a statement issued on September 11 hours after the ambassador was reported killed.
Critics, including many conservatives, accused Romney of taking a political jab at the president during an international crisis.
The poll was mostly completed before this week's release of a secretly recorded video in which Romney tells wealthy donors that 47 percent of American voters are government dependents who will vote for Obama to preserve handouts.