(CNN) – One day before Mitt Romney's campaign starts a three day bus tour in Ohio, a new poll indicates the Republican nominee is behind President Barack Obama by five percentage points in the Buckeye State.
Just over half - 51% - of likely voters back the president, while 46% support Romney, according to a new survey released Sunday and conducted by the University of Cincinnati's Institute for Policy Research.
– Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker
– Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.
The survey was taken September 13-18, mostly before video emerged of controversial comments Romney made at a May fundraiser, in which he argued nearly half of Americans are "victims" who are "dependent" on the government because they don't pay federal income taxes.
While he has since said he could have stated his remarks "more clearly," Romney has largely stood by his message that Uncle Sam spends too much on entitlement programs.
The September 13-18 time window, however, included a separate round of criticism surrounding Romney's decision to blast the Obama administration's handling of the consulate attack in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
The 5-point margin comes within the poll's sampling error and falls in line with CNN's Poll of Polls in the state. As of Sept. 20, Obama had 49% and Romney had 44% of support in Ohio, according to the CNN analysis.
It includes an NBC/WSJ/Marist poll and a Fox News survey, which each have the president holding a 7-point lead, as well as an American Research Group survey, which shows Obama with a 2-point edge, well within that poll's sampling error.
With the state's early voting start date just around the corner (October 2), Romney and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan will make an aggressive blitz across the state between Monday and Wednesday.
Obama, meanwhile, has made Ohio a frequent stop on his campaign itinerary, visiting the state 12 times this year alone and 29 times since becoming president. At an event Monday, he announced his administration had filed a recent a trade complaint against China's auto industry subsidies. Ohio is a major automotive industry state.
The new poll Sunday indicated more voters trusted Obama on improving the economy than Romney - a number that used to favor the Republican nominee. According to the poll, 49% believe the president is better able to improve economic conditions in Ohio, while 44% feel the same for Romney.
"Clearly, how Ohioans view the two candidates in terms of their ability to improve Ohio's economy over the next four years will go a long way in determining who wins Ohio's 18 electoral votes," Eric Rademacher, co-director of the University of Cincinnati's Institute for Policy Research, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Interestingly, while nearly 60% of respondents have a positive opinion of the so-called auto bailout, more than half-54%–said the federal loan program would have "no influence" on their vote, according to the poll. The auto bailout is a big calling card on the campaign trail for Obama and Vice President Joe Biden and was a central theme of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Biden especially likes to remind voters of one of the campaign's mottos: "Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive."
But Rademacher, the institute's co-director, cautioned anything could happen before November 6.
"This snapshot in time shows an early advantage for the president. However, any candidate would trade this advantage today for an advantage in momentum and energy on Election Day," he said.
The University of Cincinnati's Institute for Policy Research surveyed 861 likely voters by telephone. The poll, commissioned by major Ohio newspapers, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 points. Forty-eight percent of respondents said they were Democrats, 42% identified themselves as Republicans and 10 percent said they were independents.
– CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.