AP Political Writer
RICHMOND, Va. - A new statewide poll shows that in the electoral battleground of Virginia, a state with deep moral and ideological divisions over gay marriage, the issue is likely to be a wash in November's presidential election.
A Quinnipiac University poll of 1,282 registered Virginia voters showed that one-fourth of those surveyed said same-sex marriage was extremely important or very important to them in this year's election. Statewide, 49 percent oppose gay marriage, and 42 percent support it.
The poll, conducted over five days ending Monday, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.
In an interview last month, President Barack Obama said he favors gay marriage in principle, but felt it was an issue left up to individual states.
When poll respondents were asked how Obama's statement would affect their support for him, 24 percent said it makes them less likely to support the Democrat's re-election and 14 percent said it makes them more likely to back him. But a majority _ 60 percent _ said it won't matter.
Conversely, when asked whether Republican nominee-apparent Mitt Romney's opposition to gay marriage would affect their vote, 23 percent said they were less likely to vote for him, 21 percent said they were more likely to support him, and 53 percent said it doesn't matter.
Independents, the undecided voters both parties and their superPAC surrogates are spending millions to influence across Virginia, leaned slightly more toward Obama's position than Romney's.
Only 21 percent of independents said they'd be less likely to support Obama over same-sex marriage, 15 percent would be more inclined to back him, and 62 percent said it's irrelevant to them. For Romney, only 17 percent of independents said his opposition to gay marriage would make them more prone to support him, 24 percent said they were less likely to back him because of it, and 56 percent said it makes no difference.
Overall, the poll showed Obama slightly ahead of Romney, 47 percent to 42 percent, exactly six months before the election. Romney's support is unchanged from a March Quinnipiac poll, but Obama's June total has declined from 50 percent since March.
Obama's 5 percentage point June margin remains unchanged even if Republican Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is Romney's vice presidential running mate.
The president's edge comes from an overwhelming advantage among women voters. Fifty-one percent of the female respondents backed Obama to 35 percent for Romney. Men favored Romney over Obama by a ratio of 49 percent to 44 percent.
Democrats are ardently courting the women's vote by emphasizing Virginia's GOP- led battle to enact a new state law requiring pre-abortion ultrasound exams and U.S. Senate Republicans blocking a vote Tuesday on an bill banning gender-based pay discrimination.
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