) -- University of New Hampshire pollster Andy Smith thinks the U.S. housing crisis could soon help Mitt Romney find a new place to live -- the White House.
"I personally think the housing market has bottomed out, but the perception [among voters] is that it hasn't rebounded," Smith says. "That benefits Romney, because any bad economic news favors the party that's out of power."
The pollster thinks housing will "still [be] a major issue" with voters this fall, even though figures seem to show real estate is turning around slowly in much of the country.
The National Association of Realtors reported recently that median prices for houses, condos, townhouses and co-ops hit $187,400 in August, up 9.5% from a year earlier. That's the biggest monthly increase since January 2006, as well as the sixth straight month of gains -- a string of "wins" not seen in more than six years.
"The housing market is steadily recovering," NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said in releasing the latest data.
Few Americans seem to have gotten the memo.
Mortgage giant Fannie Mae reported this month that just 37% of 1,000 homeowners surveyed in September predicted that home prices will rise over the next 12 months.
By contrast, 46% expect no change, while 11% think prices will actually fall further.
Smith says such sentiments are good news for Republican Romney -- and bad news for incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama.
"It doesn't really matter if [housing's perceived woes] are true or not," he says. "From the point of view of the election, perception is reality."
Here's a look at how housing is doing in five key battleground states and how the real estate market's condition might play into voting there next month.