SurveyUSA released their first poll of the North Carolina Senate race, conducted on behalf of WRAL. Unfortunately, they didn’t poll the general election, but they did poll the primary and the results are very interesting. Let’s take a look:

Republican Primary
Tillis – 28%
Undecided – 23%
Brannon – 15%
Grant – 11%
Alexander – 7%
Harris – 6%
Bradshaw – 4%
Snyder – 4%
Kryn – 3%

This poll shows Brannon in second place, but unlike PPP, there is a big gap between the candidates. Tillis leads Brannon by 13 points, with Heather Grant in third. The poll is pretty terrible for Mark Harris. Many observers thought he would be Tillis’s strongest opponent, but here he’s in fifth place, behind Ted Alexander and just barely ahead of a bunch of non-serious candidates.

The path to a Tillis victory is clear: sweep the undecided voters through an onslaught of television ads. Assuming Tillis keeps his 28% support, he needs to win a little more than half of the undecided vote. Of course, if the undecideds break down the way that decided voters are breaking down, then Tillis will only get 36% of the vote, which means a runoff.

Favorable/Unfavorable (primary election voters)
Numbers in italics indicate net favorability)

Tillis 34/11 (+23)
Brannon 27/11 (+16)
Harris 23/9 (+14)
Grant 20/9 (+11)
Alexander 17/9 (+8)
Snyder 16/8 (+8)
Bradshaw 15/8 (+7)
Kryn 13/9 (+4)

SurveyUSA has a different methodology than PPP, resulting in higher favorability ratings. The numbers here roughly correspond to the candidates’ position in the primary. Republicans like everyone, but they like Tillis the most, and he’s also the most well-known of the candidates. This is in clear contrast to the PPP poll, which shows Republicans not liking anyone.

Approval Ratings

Burr 34/41 (-7)
Obama 39/54 (-15)
McCrory 34/51 (-17)
Hagan 34/54 (-20)
General Assembly 26/57 (-31)

The Burr and Obama numbers look accurate. The poll is a bad one for McCrory, at -17 this is worse than every other poll for him lately. The numbers for Kay Hagan are brutal. If accurate, then just about any Republican will be able to put up a good fight against her. The General Assembly numbers are also pretty bad, but most voters don’t like most legislatures.

Winners in this poll:
-Tillis. He has a 13-point lead on Brannon and is much closer to avoiding a runoff than PPP indicates.
-Brannon. In contrast to the Harris internal poll, he’s in second, and the most likely scenario at this point in time is a runoff between him and Tillis.
-Grant. Third place? And almost no money? It’s unlikely Grant will take off, but this is a good poll for her.

Losers:
-Harris. Fifth place? That’s a terrible result. Harris has been much more visible than both Grant and Alexander, and he’s lagging behind both of them. Interestingly, he sports better favorable numbers than both of them. Could it be that voters like Harris personally, but just don’t want him as the nominee?
-Obama & Hagan. Senators with a -20 net approval don’t get reelected. Hagan better hope this poll is wrong.
-McCrory. These are his worst numbers since last fall, after the legislative session. It’s possible that his handling of the coal ash spill is hurting his popularity.

Averaging The Polls

There are now three polling organizations who have surveyed the Republican U.S. Senate primary – PPP, American Insight, and now SurveyUSA. Since the American Insight poll is over a month old, let’s leave that aside for now and average the PPP and SurveyUSA results. Doing so yields the following:

Tillis – 21%
Brannon – 15%
Grant – 11%
Alexander – 7%
Harris – 7%
Bradshaw – 5%
Snyder – 4%
Kryn – 2%

What’s incredible is how similar the results are in both polls. The numbers for the minor candidates are almost identical. What’s different is Tillis and Brannon’s performance relative to each other. PPP says we have a tied race, with both candidates at 14%, and Tillis nowhere near hitting the 40% threshold. SurveyUSA says Tillis is ahead by 13 and within striking distance to avoiding a runoff, assuming that the undecided candidates break down in a similar fashion. But both polls show him having more work to do. My guess is that the SurveyUSA poll is closer to reality, but regardless, it’s glad to see other organizations taking a look at the increasingly heated primary here.

John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: johncwynne@gmail.com.

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