Presidential Race Tied, Cooper Up in NC

| Tom Jensen

The Presidential race in North Carolina is about as tight as it can be, and it’s also becoming increasingly clear who will end up deciding the winner in the state: voters who would like to continue the direction of President Obama’s leadership, but who also strongly dislike Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump leads the race in the state with 45% to 43% for Hillary Clinton and 6% for Gary Johnson. But when Johnson voters and undecideds are asked who they would pick if they had to choose between Clinton and Trump, the contest moves into a tie at 47%.

When you ask the voters who remain undecided in the head to head between Clinton and Trump whether they’d prefer 4 more years of Barack Obama’s leadership or the sharp pivot to Trump’s vision for the country there’s no contest. 62% of them would prefer more Obama, to only 5% who would take Trump’s direction. If those folks voted for Clinton and Trump along the same lines, Clinton would have a 50/48 advantage in the state.

There’s no guarantee those folks will move that way though. Only 10% of them have a favorable opinion of Clinton, to 75% with an unfavorable view. Of course that puts her in better stead than Trump who literally none of the voters in this group see favorably, to 79% who have a negative opinion of him. Clinton would seem to have a better chance to win these voters over than Trump, if they see her as the continuation of Obama’s direction for the country. Overall 51% of voters in the state would rather have four more years of Obama to 46% who prefer Trump. He has the potential to be an incredible asset- perhaps the decisive asset for her- in the closing stretch of the campaign in North Carolina.

A few other notes on North Carolina:

-Underscoring how closely matched the candidates are in the state, they have identical favorability ratings. Clinton and Trump both come in at 40/55.

-63% of voters in the state think Trump needs to release his tax returns, to only 24% who don’t think it’s necessary for him to do that. That includes a 62/23 sentiment among independents that he needs to do so.

-There continues to be pervasive belief among Trump voters that if Clinton wins, it will only be because of voter fraud. Just 17% think it will be because she received more votes, to 71% who think it will just be because the results were rigged for her.

-By a 30/23 spread, Trump voters in North Carolina say they have a higher opinion of David Duke than they do of Hillary Clinton.

For the first time this entire cycle PPP finds a clear leader in the race to be North Carolina’s next Governor: Roy Cooper. Cooper’s at 46% to 41% for Pat McCrory, with Libertarian Lon Cecil at 2%. When undecideds and Cecil voters are asked who they’d pick if they had to choose between Cooper and McCrory, Cooper’s lead ticks up to 50/43.

McCrory continues to be unpopular, with only 41% of voters approving of him to 49% who disapprove. This makes 39 months in a row we’ve found his approval rating under water. Voters are generally having a positive reaction as they’ve become more familiar with Cooper, with 40% of voters rating him positively to 32% who have a negative opinion.

The story in this race is Cooper’s strength with independent voters. He leads McCrory 44-33 with them in the full field, and 50-34 with them in the head to head. By contrast, McCrory defeated Walter Dalton by a 2:1 margin with independents in 2012. But they have largely soured on him with now only 36% approving of him to 49% who disapprove.

HB2 is causing McCrory big trouble as well. By a 20 point margin voters want to see it repealed- just 32% support keeping it on the books, to 52% who think it should be overturned. Among pivotal independent voters, there’s 56/29 support for repeal. There may be one simple reason HB2 is so unpopular- it’s a bill targeting LGBT people, yet only 19% of North Carolinians say they have a negative opinion of LGBT people, to 47% with a positive one and 34% who are indifferent. A bill cutting the rights of a group of people that only a small slice of the electorate has a problem with isn’t going to be very popular.

McCrory’s taken a direct hit thanks to HB2. Only 39% of voters approve of how he’s handled the issue, to 49% who disapprove. And by an 11 point margin voters say his handling of HB2 makes them less likely to vote for him this fall- 41% say it makes them less inclined to support him to only 30% who say it makes them more likely to.

Other findings related to HB2:

-Only 23% of voters think it’s helping the state, 59% think it’s hurting.

-Specifically on the issue of the economy, 59% of voters think it’s had a negative impact on North Carolina to only 10% who think it’s had a positive one.

-Specifically on the issue of North Carolina’s national reputation, 53% of voters think it’s had a negative impact on North Carolina to only 21% who think it’s had a positive one.

-Only 31% of voters think HB2 has achieved its stated goal of making North Carolina safer, 49% think it has not made the state safer. A lot of the rhetoric in support of HB2 focuses on it making things safer for women, but among them only 28% think it’s had that effect.

-Voters are tired of paying for lawsuits defending bills passed by the Legislature that often end up getting overturned in the judicial system. Only 18% of voters support the expenditure of more than 9 million dollars in legal fees defending its laws by the General Assembly over the last 5 years, to 56% who consider that a waste of money.

For the first time in our polling of North Carolina’s US Senate race we don’t find Richard Burr in the lead. He and Deborah Ross are tied at 41% each, with Libertarian Sean Haugh getting 4%. Despite 12 years of service in the Senate, voters are pretty evenly divided three ways when it comes to their feelings about Burr- 34% approve of him, 34% disapprove, and 32% have no opinion about him one way or another. Ross continues to be relatively unknown with 49% of voters having no opinion about her- 27% see her favorably and 25% unfavorably among those who do have an opinion.

The tightness of the Senate race reflects the overall competitiveness of the state. Democrats lead the generic legislative ballot by 2 points at 44/42. Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest has a 3 point lead for reelection over Democratic challenger Linda Coleman, 38/35. Democratic Attorney General candidate Josh Stein leads Republican Buck Newton 39-35. And in the contest for State Treasurer, Democrat Dan Blue III’s at 38% to 37% for Republican challenger Dale Folwell. Everything’s within the margin of error, and up and down the ballot North Carolina’s about as evenly divided as it could possibly be.

Full results here

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