WASHINGTON Women voters helped President Barack Obama take a large lead over Republican front-runner candidate Mitt Romney in a dozen battleground states, a USA TODAY/Gallup poll said on Monday.
The results point to difficulties the Republicans could face among a critical bloc in November's general election against Obama.
Support for Obama among women under the age of 50 surged from mid-February, the poll found, putting the president ahead of Romney by 51 percent against 42 percent among all voters. Obama led Romney among the women with 54 percent, compared to Romney's 36 percent.
The poll surveyed 993 registered voters and was taken March 20-25 in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Those are considered battleground states - states that are not leaning strongly toward one party or the other.
The Republican Party has traditionally had a hard sell with women voters, who are more likely to register as Democrats. Republican criticism of birth control played a big role in the party's race for the presidential nomination in recent weeks, with Romney promising to end Planned Parenthood, which provides family planning services.
In mid-February, Obama trailed Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, by two percentage points and fewer than half of women under the age of 50 said they would vote for Obama. In Monday's results, more than six in 10 said they would, the poll showed.
In Monday's poll, as many as 41 percent of women identified themselves as Democrats compared with 25 percent of men.
The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 points.
(Editing by Bill Trott)