Democratic candidates are leading in the race for president, senate and governor in the key battleground state of North Carolina, a new Suffolk University/USA TODAY Network Poll shows.
The state, with its 15 electoral votes, is important for both President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden as they court voters ahead of Election Day.
Voters in the state said the top three issues facing the next president are jobs (20.6%), COVID-19 (20.20%) and racism (13.6%), according to the survey of 500 North Carolina registered voters on cell phones and landlines this past Friday through Monday. These voters said they plan to vote in this election. The margin of error is 4.4%.
The survey also says more than 42% of likely North Carolina voters would refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine if one were mandated by the federal government.
It also found:
Significant numbers plan to vote for minor-party candidates, suggesting that the Libertarian, Constitution and Green parties could influence the outcomes.
Half of Republican voters are excited to vote this year, while a third are voting because they are alarmed. Meanwhile, only about a third of Democrats are excited to vote, while half of them voting from a position of alarm.
20.2% plan to vote by mail vs. 4.2% in 2016 who voted by mail). This comes as people seek to avoid the coronavirus. Another 39.4% plan to vote in person on Election Day (vs. 33.4% in 2016), and 37.6% plan to vote in-person during the early voting period (vs. 61.8% in 2016).
The survey shows relatively strong support for minor party candidates that could decide who wins the races for U.S. Senate and president in this state, said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. These candidates take votes that otherwise might go to the Democratic and Republican candidates.
“Libertarian is the key choice, that was the other takeaway from the poll,” Paleologos said, noting that the Libertarian Party’s U.S. Senate candidate was chosen by nearly 6% of the voters surveyed. More than 5% of those surveyed picked third-party candidates for president.
Libertarian and other minor-party candidates kept the winners below 50% in North Carolina in 2014’s U.S. Senate race and in the state’s elections for president and governor in 2016.
For example, in 2014 Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis won his first Senate election with 48.82% of the vote while Libertarian Sean Haugh was marked on 3.74% of the ballots. Minor party candidates received 4% of North Carolina’s votes for president in 2016.
The survey found mixed opinions about a vaccine for the coronavirus.
It says 71.6% would take it — 20.6% as soon as they could, and 51% after other people took it first. Meanwhile, 24% said they would not get the vaccine, and 4.4% were undecided.
The numbers change if the government would require people to take the drug.
In that case, 48.8% said they would, 42.2% said they would not. The rest were undecided or refused to say.
Most of the four-day survey was conducted prior to Democratic candidate Cal Cunningham’s comment on Monday evening that he would be hesitant to take the vaccine. Cunningham said because he fears political corruption in Washington could affect whether the vaccine is approved before it’s proven to be safe and effective.
His opponent, Republican incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis, said he trusts the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) vetting process and he would take the vaccine after people who need it more than he does, such as medical care personnel and people with underlying health conditions, get it first.
The survey has Biden ahead in North Carolina, but his lead is within the poll's 4.4% margin of error, Paleologos said.
Biden led Trump 46.2% to 42.80%. Libertarian Jo Jorgensen drew 4.8%. Other candidates attracted 0.6%.
Another 4.2% of the voters were undecided and 1.4% wouldn’t say who they plan to vote for.
When asked about Trump’s performance as president, 42.8% of the voters said they approve, while 53.4% disapproved. The voters’ assessment of Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic was 37% positive, 61.6% negative.
Biden’s favorability rating was 48% favorable, 45.8% unfavorable. Trump’s was 40.8% favorable, 54.2% unfavorable.
U.S. Senate race
Democrat Cunningham was ahead of Republican Tillis but 11% of the voters remain undecided, Paleologos said.
The findings: 41.6% picked Cunningham, 37.8% picked Tillis, 5.8% picked Libertarian Shannon Bray, 1.6% picked Constitution Party candidate Kevin E. Hayes, and 1.8% picked someone else.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is so far ahead of Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest in the governor’s race that he is most likely to win, Paleologos said.
Cooper led Forest 50.40% to 38%. Libertarian Stephen DiFiore II drew 4.6% and Constitution Party candidate Al Pisano attracted 0.6%.
Another 5.80% said they were undecided, and 0.20% picked someone else.
Thirty-eight percent of those surveyed said they are excited about voting this year, while 44.4% said they are voting because they are alarmed.
The survey suggests that a person’s political party may correlate to how they feel about voting, with 35% of Democrats saying they are excited about voting, while 53% feel alarmed. Meanwhile, 50% of Republicans said they were excited, and 34% said they were alarmed.
Among voters picking Trump for president, 49% reported being excited, while 34% were alarmed. At the same time, 33% of Biden supporters said they are excited, while 53% said they are alarmed.
Biden has a challenge, Paleologos said, in getting voters energized to vote for him vs. voting because they don’t like the president.
Republicans prioritized jobs and the economy (33%) over COVID-19 (7%), while Democrats prioritized COVID-19 (32%) over the economy (10%).
60.2%, said the country is on the wrong track; 27.6% said it’s on the right track.
38.2% said the North Carolina economy is in good to excellent condition, while 60.4% said it’s in fair to poor shape.
52.8% of the voters said they are better off than they were four years ago, while 28.4% said they were worse off and 17.4% said they saw no difference.
Paul Woolverton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-261-4710.
This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: North Carolina poll: Joe Biden, Cal Cunningham lead in crucial swing state