Two polls came out this week from pollsters who regularly survey the state. One polls primarily for progressives and Democrats. The other polls for conservatives and Republicans. They had very similar results for gubernatorial contests but diverged on the U.S. Senate and presidential races.
Harper Polling has been polling the state for the conservative Civitas Institute for the past year or so and have been polling monthly since March. PPP is based in North Carolina and has been polling regularly here for almost 20 years. Both firms seem to provide reliable numbers.
That said, both firms show Roy Cooper with a healthy and sustaining lead over Dan Forest. Harper has Cooper up twelve, 49-37, and PPP has him up eleven, 50-39. Harper finds Cooper’s overall job approval rating high at 63% approve, 33% disapprove and PPP finds voters overwhelming approve of his handling of the pandemic. Cooper has held a wide lead over Forest for months and he has very high approval ratings. A comeback for Forest now would be one for the ages. He’ll probably need a scandal or for voters to turn sour on Cooper’s handling of some significant issue.
In the U.S. Senate race, PPP has Cunningham leading Tillis by two, 43-41, and Harper has Tillis leading by two, 38-36. Both polls have huge numbers of undecided voters and both fall within the margin of error. They really tell us that the Senate contest is wide open. What happens in the presidential race and the political environment next fall will likely have the biggest impact on this election. We’ll see tens of millions of dollars in ads between now and then but they will likely have little influence in swaying voters in this election. The outcome is largely out of the control of the either campaign except to ensure they don’t screw up.
In the presidential race, Harper has voters much more bullish on Trump than PPP. They give the president a three point lead over Biden, 47-44, and net approval rating of +3. PPP gives Biden a four point advantage 49-45, with Trump’s approval underwater by five points. Somebody is clearly wrong here. That said, both polls show a state up for grabs.
Both polls show that voters prefer Cooper’s more cautious approach to re-opening the state. Republicans who are demanding that he speed up the process might find themselves on the wrong side of voters if we see a spike in cases and deaths later this summer. Solid majorities in both polls think Cooper is either moving at the right pace or moving too quickly to re-open. Those that want to re-open immediately make up less than a third of the voters.
Harper Polling has a bit of a conservative tilt while PPP leans more toward the Democrats. Harper has consistently shown Tillis and Trump leading in the state while PPP has shown the opposite over the past few months, though the spreads are not huge. The Real Clear Politics average in both races splits the difference, giving Biden at .8% advantage and Cunningham a .2% advantage. In other words, both races are toss ups.
The polls were done before George Floyd unrest. National protests and the riots that accompanied them almost certainly have influenced the mood of the electorate. In addition, the dispute over the Republican National Convention in Charlotte probably has an impact, too. The June/July polls will be interesting.
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 >