Civitas has a poll out that should give Republicans in North Carolina a bit of relief. It’s not enough to jump for joy, but it’s a lot better than other polls that have come out recently. Roy Cooper is still popular and the favorite to win re-election and Thom Tillis is a long way from safe, but Donald Trump is faring pretty well and he’ll drive a lot of the election next year.
According to the poll of 500 likely voters, Cooper leads Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest by ten points, 47-37. In addition, 53% of voters approve of Coopers job performance while 34% disapprove. Those are solid numbers for an incumbent, though they will change as the election changes. Cooper is the clear frontrunner.
Tillis has taken a bit of a beating both in the media and in conservative circles recently and his approval rating reflects that. Only 23% approve of his job performance while 31% disapprove. Despite his tenure as Speaker of the North Carolina House and one term as US Senator, he’s still ill-defined by a lot of voters. Even a third of Republicans say they have no opinion of him, highlighting the opportunity his primary opponent, Garland Tucker, has to take him out next March. Tillis will need to improve his approval rating considerably if he hopes to win re-election next year.
Donald Trump is essentially holding steady in the state. While he’s underwater by four points 47% approve, 51% disapprove, his rating has steady pretty steady over the past nine months. Back in September 2018, his approval was -8, 45 approve, 53 disapprove, but over the fall, winter and spring, his numbers split evenly. Unless his approval dips next month, we’ll assume the state is roughly evenly split on the opinion of the president. If he can hold that place, he won’t hurt Republicans in 2020, so Democrats should try to make the election about something more than Trump.
The generic ballots for both legislature and Congress are evenly split. Republicans have benefited over the last year from people defecting from Democrats to undecided. Last September, Democrats had a six point advantage in the legislative ballot, 42-36, and a seven point advantage in the Congressional ballot, 47-38. Republican support hasn’t grown any over the last nine months, but the Democratic advantage has completely disappeared. In addition, Unaffiliated voters break for the generic Republican on both ballots by about eight points.
In the cross tabs on the generic ballot, Republican support comes overwhelmingly from middle aged voters. Voters 45 to 54 years old give Republicans a 30 point advantage, 55-25. While the sample is small and unreliable in a 500 person poll, I’ve seen similar numbers in other polls. Those are voters who came of age in the midst of the Reagan Revolution. The oldest ones cast their first vote in 1984, Reagan’s Morning in America campaign, are shaped by the optimism that Americans had for the first decade of their adulthood.
The gender gap is also pronounced. On the Congressional ballot, women support Democrats by 13 points while men support Republicans by 15 points. In addition a solid majority of women, 56%, disapprove of the president’s job performance while only 41% approve. Among men, 53% approve while 44% disapprove.
Overall, the poll shows a closely divided state with big division among subgroups of voters. Trump’s approval holds fairly steady, though it’s down just a bit, and Roy Cooper remains popular though his approval has slipped some, maybe because the legislature is session. Tillis is in the clearest danger. He’s been hurt by bad press and he’s failed to make much of an impression on the electorate. A lot will change in the next year and a half, but expect North Carolina to be as competitive as it has ever been.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >