Presidential Race Knotted in NC; Senate Race Close

| Tom Jensen

North Carolina was the second closest state in the country for President in both 2008 and 2012, and PPP’s newest poll finds it remains similarly competitive this time around. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are dead even at 43%, with Libertarian Gary Johnson at 4%, Green Party candidate Jill Stein at 2%, and 7% undecided.

Trump actually leads Clinton 48/46 head to head, and Republicans lead 47/45 on the generic Presidential ballot. Johnson, even with only 4% support, is very clearly hurting Trump in North Carolina. His supporters say, 64/22, that they would pick Trump over Clinton if they had to choose just between the two. But for now anyway they’re for Johnson and that’s costing Trump a couple points.

There’s not much evidence in North Carolina of Republican voters having any desire to dump Trump. He has a 72/18 favorability rating among voters in his party and he leads Clinton 85-6 among GOP voters in the full field, just a shade below the 89-6 advantage a generic Republican candidate has among GOP voters in the state.

It’s actually Clinton who still has some more work to do when it comes to party unity. She leads 79-12 among Democrats, compared to the 85-6 lead Trump enjoys with his party. Among Democrats and independents who have a favorable opinion of Bernie Sanders she’s getting 74% of the vote to 11% for Trump, 5% for Stein, 4% for Johnson, and 4% who are undecided. If Clinton could win over just half of those holdout Sanders fans it would take her from the current 43/43 tie to a 48/43 lead in the Tar Heel State. Clinton may have more room to grow than Trump if she can eventually get those reluctant Sanders backers in her column.

Donald Trump has talked a lot recently about how voters don’t want a third Obama term but in North Carolina- even though Obama lost there in 2012- Obama narrowly edges Trump 49/48 on the question of who people would rather have as President. That comes on the heels of Obama leading that same question 52/41 when we asked it in Virginia last week.

We also tested a potential running mate each for Clinton and Trump and continue to find that selection has little bearing on the state of the race. Trump leads Clinton 48/46 in a head to head. If you test Elizabeth Warren as a hypothetical running mate for Clinton, Trump’s lead is 48/45. And if you test Richard Burr as a hypothetical running mate for Trump, Trump’s lead is 47/46. Neither of those hypotheticals move the needle by more than a point.

Speaking of Burr he may have enough to contend with just to get reelected to the Senate this fall. We continue to find him with just a narrow lead over Deborah Ross for reelection- 40/37, with Libertarian Sean Haugh at 5%. The overall state of the race remains steady- Burr is unpopular, with only 30% of voters approving of the job he’s doing to 40% who disapprove. That makes voters open to a change. But Ross is currently unknown with 62% of voters having no opinion about her one way or another. They’re open to the possibility of replacing Burr but don’t know enough about Ross yet to decide if they think she would be an upgrade.

The gun issues that the Senate voted on this week play well for Ross. 85% of voters in the state support background checks on all gun purchases, to only 9% who oppose that. 91% of independents, 84% of Democrats, and 82% of Republicans support expanded background checks. And 81% of voters support barring those on the Terror Watch List from buying guns to only 9% opposed to that. There’s 89% support from independents, 79% from Republicans, and 78% from Democrats on that measure. It’s very rare to see such strong bipartisan support on any contentious issue. North Carolinians also support an assault weapons ban, 52/34.

Another issue that plays well for Ross is the Supreme Court vacancy. 56% of voters in the state think there should be hearings on Merrick Garland’s nomination, to only 24% who are opposed to those. There’s strong support from both Democrats (69/9) and independents (56/25) for hearings and even Republicans are pretty closely divided (38/42) on holding them. Voters say by a 19 point margin that they’re less likely to vote for a Senate candidate opposed to hearings on Garland’s nomination.

Finally we find that 73% of voters in the state support increasing the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour, compared to only 14% who think the current wage is acceptable and 9% who think it should be eliminated altogether. There’s support from 87% of Democrats, 74% of independents, and 53% of Republicans for a minimum wage increase.

Full results here

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