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Prez Race Stays Tight; Dem Senate Candidate Gains

Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020

Incumbent maintains lead in governor’s race

West Long Branch, NJ – It continues to be a very tight race for president in North Carolina according to the Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll.  The race for U.S. Senate has grown a little more favorable for the Democratic candidate since September, despite revelations of an extramarital entanglement. The poll also finds the incumbent governor maintains an advantage in his reelection bid, although by a slightly smaller margin than he did one month ago.

Among all registered voters in North Carolina, the race for president stands at 49% for Joe Biden and 46% for Donald Trump. Another 3% support Jo Jorgensen (Libertarian), less than 1% support other third party candidates, and 2% are undecided. Among likely voters, Biden leads 50% to 46% in a high turnout scenario while the race is almost even at 49% for Biden to 48% for Trump using a low turnout model. These results are similar to Monmouth’s September poll.

NORTH CAROLINA:  PRESIDENT
 Registered
voters
High likely
turnout
Low likely
turnout
October   
Biden (D)49%50%49%
Trump (R)46%46%48%
Other3%2%2%
Undecided2%2%1%
    
September   
Biden (D)47%48%48%
Trump (R)45%46%46%
Other5%3%3%
Undecided3%3%3%
 Source:  Monmouth University Poll, Oct. 8-11, 2020

 Biden has made gains in 22 counties where the vote margins were closest in the 2016 presidential election. The Democrat currently holds a 59% to 38% edge among registered voters in these swing counties* where the aggregate vote went to Hillary Clinton by a single point. The presidential race was basically tied in these counties last month. Biden also has a 58% to 35% margin in counties that went solidly for Clinton (by a similar 27 points in 2016), which is basically unchanged from September. Biden’s swing county gains have been offset by a strengthening of Trump’s position (61% to 35%) in the counties he won handily four years ago. The current numbers are better than the president’s 17-point lead in these counties last month, but still lag his 34-point aggregate victory there four years ago.

“There has been some shifting within the electorate but the overall picture remains the same – another tight presidential contest in North Carolina. Basically, it looks like Trump has been locking in his base at the expense of swing voter support,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. Each of the last three presidential elections were decided by fewer than four percentage points in North Carolina.

 Of four issues asked about in the poll, the most salient to voters is the potential breakdown of law and order, which 56% of North Carolina voters say worries them a lot. Just under half (48%) worry a lot about the coronavirus pandemic, while about 4 in 10 worry a lot about having access to medical care when they need it (39%) and knowing they will have a stable income over the next year (39%).

“The Trump campaign has been successful in elevating law and order to the top of voters’ minds. There’s only one problem. This issue is not a slam dunk for their side,” said Murray.

When asked who they trust more to maintain law and order, 46% of voters choose Trump, but a similar 43% choose Biden. The challenger has the edge when it comes to voter confidence in handling the pandemic – 47%, to 38% who trust the incumbent more. Biden also has the lead – 46% to 38% – on voter trust in keeping health care affordable and accessible. Trump’s best issue area is creating jobs and strengthening the economy, where he has a 49% to 38% trust advantage over Biden.

“The issue where Trump is strongest, jobs and the economy, is the one that voters – and crucially, independent voters – seem to be less worried about right now,” said Murray.

Biden has a very slight edge on the empathy metric. Just over half (53%) of North Carolina voters say he has at least some understanding of the day to day concerns of people like them while just under half (47%) say the same about Trump.

– U.S. Senate –

The Monmouth University Poll finds North Carolina’s U.S. Senate election has shifted in the Democrat’s favor since last month. Among registered voters, challenger Cal Cunningham has 48% support and first-term Republican incumbent Thom Tillis has 44% support. Other voter support goes to Libertarian Shannon Bray (3%) and Kevin Hayes of the Constitution Party (<1%), with 3% undecided. The race was virtually tied in September’s poll at 46% for Cunningham and 45% for Tillis.

Among likely voters in a high turnout scenario, Cunningham leads Tillis by 49% to 44% (versus a 47% to 45% lead in September). Using a lower turnout model, the race is a tight 48% for Cunningham and 47% for Tillis (compared with a tied race at 46% each in September). Tillis won the seat in 2014 by just under two percentage points against then-incumbent Kay Hagan.

NORTH CAROLINA:  US SENATE
 Registered
voters
High likely
turnout
Low likely
turnout
October   
Cunningham (D)48%49%48%
Tillis (R)44%44%47%
Other3%3%2%
Undecided3%3%2%
    
September   
Cunningham (D)46%47%46%
Tillis (R)45%45%46%
Other3%4%4%
Undecided5%4%4%
 Source:  Monmouth University Poll, Oct. 8-11, 2020

Both major party candidates in the senate race unintendedly made headlines in the past two weeks – the challenger for extramarital romantic texts and the incumbent for acquiring Covid-19 after attending the White House super-spreader event. Voter opinion of Cunningham has flipped from positive to negative over the past month. He currently earns a 25% favorable and 33% unfavorable rating, with 43% having no opinion. His September numbers were 34% favorable, 22% unfavorable, and 44% no opinion.

At the same time, very few voters (14%) feel that the sexting revelation disqualifies Cunningham from holding office. Another 32% say this behavior calls his character into question but is not a disqualifier, while just over half (51%) say this should only be an issue for him and his family. One way to look at how this problem may impact Cunningham is to isolate voters who have the greatest potential for ticket splitting. Among this group – defined as voters who are not firmly committed to voting for either both Republicans or both Democrats in the president and governor races – 54% say Cunningham’s behavior is not their business, while 28% say it does raise some questions about the candidate’s character but does not disqualify him. Only 15% actually consider it a disqualifying factor for holding office.

“North Carolinians may frown on Cunningham’s behavior but few think it has any bearing on his fitness for office. In fact, at a time when swing voters have had their fill of hyperpartisanship, it’s possible that this story coming out now could actually hurt Tillis a bit,” said Murray.

North Carolina voters give Tillis a 30% favorable and 34% unfavorable rating, with 37% offering no opinion of him. The incumbent held a 35% favorable and 35% unfavorable rating in September, with 31% having no opinion. Half (50%) of the electorate feels Tillis did not take the pandemic seriously enough before he came down with Covid himself, while just 37% believe he did take it seriously.

An interesting side note in the poll findings is that more North Carolina voters know about Cunningham’s sexting activity (80%) than know about Tillis’s diagnosis (69%). There is no partisan difference in awareness of Cunningham’s news, but Republicans (61%) are less likely than Democrats (74%) and independents (71%) to have heard about Tillis’s condition.

– Governor –

The race for governor has been fairly stable over the past month. Democratic incumbent Roy Cooper holds a 51% to 44% lead over his Republican challenger, current Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest, among registered voters. Libertarian Steven DeFiore (1%) and Al Pisano of the Constitution Party (<1%) get very little support, while 3% of voters remain undecided. The incumbent maintains a lead among likely voters by 52% to 44% in the high turnout model and 51% to 46% in the low turnout model. Cooper’s lead in each model is narrower than Monmouth’s September poll, although the differences are not statistically significant.

More than 6 in 10 North Carolina voters (63%) say Cooper has done a good job handling the coronavirus outbreak. Just 31% feel has done a bad job. This opinion is basically unchanged from one month ago.

“The bottom line is, do a good job on Covid and you’ll have a decent shot at being reelected,” said Murray. In 2016, Cooper beat then-incumbent Pat McCrory by less than a percentage point.

NORTH CAROLINA:  GOVERNOR
 Registered
voters
High likely
turnout
Low likely
turnout
October   
Cooper (D)51%52%51%
Forest (R)44%44%46%
Other1%1%1%
Undecided3%2%2%
    
September   
Cooper (D)51%51%51%
Forest (R)40%42%42%
Other4%5%5%
Undecided3%2%2%
 Source:  Monmouth University Poll, Oct. 8-11, 2020

Just one-third (33%) of North Carolina voters plan to wait until Election Day to cast their ballots. The remainder are either voting early in person (49%) or returning their ballots by mail (15%). In fact, 10% of those polled report having already voted. This includes 19% of Democrats, 7% of independents, and 6% of Republicans.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from October 8 to 11, 2020 with 500 North Carolina registered voters. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

* 2016 presidential margin by county groupings:

Swing (18% of turnout) – 22 counties where the winning margin for either candidate was less than 12 points, with a cumulative vote of 48.7% Clinton and 47.6% Trump.

Clinton (40% of turnout) – Clinton won these 16 counties by 12 points or more, with a cumulative vote of 61.1% to 34.3%, with Wake and Mecklenburg making up the lion’s share.

Trump (42% of turnout) – Trump won these 62 counties by 12 points or more, with a cumulative vote of 65.3% to 31.1%.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS     

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

[Note: Voters who report already casting their ballots were asked, “In the election for X, did you vote for…” for Q1 and 4-5.]

1.If the election for President was today, would you vote for … Donald Trump the Republican, Joe Biden the Democrat, Jo Jorgensen the Libertarian, Howie Hawkins of the Green Party, or Don Blankenship of the Constitution Party? [NAMES WERE ROTATED] [If UNDECIDED: If you had to vote for one of the following candidates at this moment, who do you lean toward – Donald Trump or Joe Biden?]

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERS
(with leaners)
Oct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Donald Trump46%45%
Joe Biden49%47%
Jo Jorgensen3%3%
Howie Hawkins<1%<1%
Don Blankenship0%<1%
(VOL) Other candidate0%1%
(VOL) No one0%1%
(VOL) Undecided2%3%
(n)(500)(401)

[1A.  If Trump/Biden voter, ASK: Are you certain about your vote choice, or might you change your mind

before election day?]

[QUESTIONS 2 & 3 WERE ROTATED]

2.What is the likelihood that you might vote for Donald Trump in November – very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Certain for Trump (from Q1/A)44%40%
Very likely 1%2%
Somewhat likely 2%6%
Not too likely2%4%
Not at all likely49%47%
(VOL) Don’t know1%2%
(n)(500)(401)

3.What is the likelihood that you might vote for Joe Biden in November – very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Certain for Biden (from Q1/A)44%41%
Very likely 2%2%
Somewhat likely 4%6%
Not too likely3%3%
Not at all likely46%44%
(VOL) Don’t know1%3%
(n)(500)(401)

4.If the election for U.S. Senate was today, would you vote for … Thom Tillis the Republican, Cal Cunningham the Democrat, Shannon Bray the Libertarian, or Kevin Hayes of the Constitution Party? [NAMES WERE ROTATED] [If UNDECIDED: If you had to vote for one of the following candidates at this moment, who do you lean toward – Thom Tillis or Cal Cunningham?]

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERS
(with leaners)
Oct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Thom Tillis44%45%
Cal Cunningham48%46%
Shannon Bray3%2%
Kevin Hayes<1%1%
(VOL) Other candidate0%<1%
(VOL) No one1%1%
(VOL) Undecided3%5%
(n)(500)(401)

5.If the election for Governor was today, would you vote for … Dan Forest the Republican, Roy Cooper the Democrat, Steven DiFiore the Libertarian, or Al Pisano of the Constitution Party? [NAMES WERE ROTATED] [If UNDECIDED: If you had to vote for one of the following candidates at this moment, who do you lean toward – Dan Forest or Roy Cooper?]

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERS
(with leaners)
Oct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Dan Forest44%40%
Roy Cooper51%51%
Steven DiFiore1%3%
Al Pisano<1%1%
(VOL) Other candidate0%<1%
(VOL) No one1%1%
(VOL) Undecided3%3%
(n)(500)(401)

6.Has Governor Roy Cooper done a good job or bad job handling the coronavirus outbreak?  [Is that very or somewhat good/bad?]

TREND:
REGISTERED VOTERS
Oct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Very good33%33%
Somewhat good30%32%
Somewhat bad13%11%
Very bad18%20%
(VOL) Don’t know5%4%
(n)(500)(401)

7.Do you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the 2020 presidential election? [Is that very or somewhat optimistic/pessimistic?]

TREND:
REGISTERED VOTERS
Oct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Very optimistic32%31%
Somewhat optimistic32%39%
Somewhat pessimistic16%13%
Very pessimistic12%9%
(VOL) Neither, don’t care3%5%
(VOL) Don’t know5%3%
(n)(500)(401)

8.How motivated are you to vote in the November election for president – very motivated, somewhat motivated, or not that motivated?

TREND:
REGISTERED VOTERS
Oct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Very motivated88%84%
Somewhat motivated8%12%
Not that motivated5%4%
(VOL) Don’t know0%0%
(n)(500)(401)

9.Compared to past elections, are you more enthusiastic than usual, less enthusiastic, or about the same as past elections?

TREND:
REGISTERED VOTERS
Oct.
2020
Sept.
2020
More enthusiastic49%42%
Less enthusiastic14%13%
About the same36%44%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%
(n)(500)(401)

[QUESTIONS 10 & 11 WERE ROTATED]

10.How much does Donald Trump understand the day to day concerns of people like you – a great deal, some, not much, or not at all?

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Great deal30%
Some17%
Not much9%
Not at all43%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(500)

11.How much does Joe Biden understand the day to day concerns of people like you – a great deal, some, not much, or not at all?

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Great deal30%
Some23%
Not much14%
Not at all32%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
(n)(500)

12.For each of the following situations please tell me if it personally worries you a lot, a little, or not at all? [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

Knowing you will have access to medical care if you need it

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
A lot39%
A little27%
Not at all35%
(VOL) Don’t know0%
(n)(500)

Knowing you will have a stable income over the next year

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
A lot39%
A little25%
Not at all36%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(500)

The possible breakdown of law and order

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
A lot56%
A little28%
Not at all15%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(500)

The coronavirus pandemic

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
A lot48%
A little34%
Not at all17%
(VOL) Don’t know0%
(n)(500)

[QUESTIONS 13 -16 WERE ROTATED]

13.Who do you trust more to keep health care affordable and accessible – Donald Trump or Joe Biden, or both equally?

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Donald Trump38%
Joe Biden46%
Both equally12%
(VOL) Neither2%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(500)

14.Who do you trust more on creating jobs and strengthening the economy – Donald Trump or Joe Biden, or both equally?

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Donald Trump49%
Joe Biden38%
Both equally11%
(VOL) Neither1%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(500)

15.Who do you trust more on maintaining law and order – Donald Trump or Joe Biden, or both equally?

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Donald Trump46%
Joe Biden43%
Both equally9%
(VOL) Neither1%
(VOL) Don’t know0%
(n)(500)

16.Who do you trust more on handling the coronavirus pandemic – Donald Trump or Joe Biden, or both equally?

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Donald Trump38%
Joe Biden47%
Both equally13%
(VOL) Neither2%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(500)

[QUESTIONS 17 & 18 WERE ROTATED]

17.Is your general impression of Thom Tillis favorable or unfavorable, or don’t you really have an opinion of him?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Favorable30%35%
Unfavorable34%35%
No opinion37%31%
(n)(500)(401)

18.Is your general impression of Cal Cunningham favorable or unfavorable, or don’t you really have an opinion of him?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Favorable25%34%
Unfavorable33%22%
No opinion43%44%
(n)(500)(401)

[QUESTIONS 19 & 20 WERE ROTATED WITH QUESTIONS 21 & 22]

19.Have you heard that Thom Tillis tested positive for Covid after attending a White House event, or weren’t you aware of that?

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Heard69%
Not aware31%
(n)(500)

20.Do you think prior to that, Tillis had been taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously enough or not seriously enough?

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Seriously enough37%
Not seriously enough50%
(VOL) Don’t know13%
(n)(500)

21.Have you heard that Cal Cunningham exchanged romantic texts with a woman who is not his wife, or weren’t you aware of that?

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Heard80%
Not aware20%
(n)(500)

22.Would you describe this situation as something that disqualifies Cunningham from holding office, something that calls his character into question but does not disqualify him from office, or something that should be an issue only for him and his family?

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Disqualifies14%
Character in question32%
Issue only for him and his family51%
(VOL) Don’t know3%
(n)(500)

23.How will you vote this year – in person on Election Day, in person at an early voting location, or by mail ballot?  [If ALREADY VOTED: How did you vote this year…?]

REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
In person on Election Day33%
In person at an early voting location49%
By mail ballot15%
(VOL) Don’t know3%
(n)(500)

24.Overall, how confident are you that the November election will be conducted fairly and accurately – very confident, somewhat confident, not too confident, or not at all confident?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSOct.
2020
Sept.
2020
Very confident23%14%
Somewhat confident36%42%
Not too confident25%22%
Not at all confident15%19%
(VOL) Don’t know1%4%
(n)(500)(401)

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from October 8 to 11, 2020 with a statewide random sample of 500 North Carolina voters drawn from a list of registered voters. This includes 136 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 364 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for party registration, age, gender, race, education, and region based on state voter registration list information and U.S. Census information (CPS 2018 supplement). Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and Aristotle (voter sample). For results based on the full voter sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)
REGISTERED VOTERS
 
Party Registration
30% Republican
34% Other/none
36% Democrat
 
Self-Reported Party
28% Republican
39% Independent
33% Democrat
 
47% Male
53% Female
 
24% 18-34
23% 35-49
27% 50-64
26% 65+
 
71% White, non-Hispanic
23% Black
  5% Hispanic
  1% Asian
  1% Other race
 
66% No degree
34% 4 year degree
 

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and crosstabs by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs