BURLINGTON-The contests at the top of the ballot have tightened in North Carolina, with the races for president and governor now too close to call and incumbent Republican Richard Burr holding a lead within the margin of error in the U.S. Senate race, according to the results of the latest Elon University Poll.
Asked a little more than a week before Election Day, more than a third of likely N.C. voters say they believe voter fraud will be a major problem this year, and more than two-thirds are worried about the decisions the victor will make as president, regardless of who takes office. Additionally, likely voters say that the media is more biased against Republican Donald Trump than Democrat Hillary Clinton, while less than half — 45 percent — of likely voters say they believe that the multiple sexual assault accusations levied against Trump and widely reported in the media are “mostly true.”
The live-caller, dual frame (landline and cell phone) survey of 710 likely voters was conducted from Oct. 23-27, 2016. Survey results in this news release present responses from registered voters who were classified as likely voters in the Nov. 8 election and has a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points.
CLINTON VS. TRUMP
The race for the White House is essentially tied in North Carolina, with Clinton holding a lead of less than 1 percentage point. Among likely voters, Clinton has 42 percent of the vote while Trump has 41.2 percent, with 8.7 percent saying they are still undecided in the race. Support for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian and leading third-party contender, has dwindled during the past month from more than 9 percent of the vote in early October to just 2.6 percent at the end of the month.
The race continues to be split clearly along racial lines, with 100 percent of black respondents saying they plan to vote for Clinton, and 67 percent of white voters planning to vote for Trump. The gender gap has narrowed in the race, with 55 percent of women voters planning to vote for Clinton, compared to 61 percent during the second Elon Poll nearly a month ago. Men continue to prefer Trump by a 56-44 split.
“North Carolina is still very much in play for both Trump and Clinton,” said Jason Husser, director of the Elon University Poll and assistant professor of political science. “The Old North State is continuing its tradition as a source of true toss-up electoral votes.”
Turning to the perceived bias in media coverage of the presidential race, N.C. voters believe that Trump has suffered more than Clinton during the long campaign season. More than half — 56 percent — said the media is biased against Donald Trump while just 19 percent said the media is biased against Clinton. Trump voters overwhelmingly said the media has been biased against their candidate, with 92 percent holding that view. Among Clinton voters, about one in five — 21 percent — said there is media bias against Trump.
But regardless of who prevails on Nov. 8, voters appear concerned about what the next president will do once taking office, with a larger proportion of voters worried about having Trump at the helm than Clinton. Asked whether they were worried about the decisions that Trump would make as president, 44 percent said they were “very worried” and 30 percent said they were “somewhat worried.” Another 24 percent said they were “not at all worried” about the decisions Trump would make as president.
Shifting to Clinton, 40 percent said they were “very worried” about the decisions she would make as president, with 29 percent saying they were “somewhat worried” and another 29 percent saying they were “not at all worried.”
Recent weeks have seen Trump accused by multiple women of sexual assault, accusations that have generated a lot of media coverage. What weight do N.C. voters give to those accusations? The Elon Poll found that 45 percent of likely voters think the accusations are “mostly true” while 36 percent think they are “mostly false.” Those that don’t know whether the claims are true accounted for 14 percent of likely voters.
“Perceptions of the allegations against Donald Trump are a clear example of partisan-motivated reasoning,” Husser said. “That’s seen in that 79 percent of Democrats said sexual assault accusations were ‘mostly true’ compared to only 15 percent of Republicans.”
The response to the question also showed a split by gender, with 51 percent of women voters saying that the accusations were “mostly true” compared to 38 percent of men.
Trump supporters were found to be more likely to question the legitimacy of the election and also to fear that voter fraud might be a problem during the 2016 elections. The Elon Poll found that 83 percent of likely voters say they will accept the results of the election as valid, regardless of who wins, while 9 percent said they would not accept the results. Among Clinton supporters, 92 percent said they would accept the election results as valid, compared to 72 percent of Trump supporters.
Additionally, 36.5 percent of likely voters said election fraud will be a “major problem” this year, with a clear split on that question based on who the voter prefers in the presidential race. Among Trump voters, 60 percent view election fraud as a major problem, compared to 15 percent of Clinton voters who held the same view.
“The Trump campaign’s arguments about election ‘rigging’ seem to be working in North Carolina,” Husser said. “The poll found that 92 percent of Trump voters think the media is biased against him, and 60 percent of his voters think fraud will be a major problem in this election. However, a substantial 72 percent of Trump supporters still say they will accept the results of the election as valid regardless of who wins.”
N.C. GOVERNOR’S RACE
The race between incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and Democrat Roy Cooper continues to be close, with this most recent poll finding the two candidates virtually even at 44 percent among likely voters with a little more than a week until Election Day. The poll found 7.5 percent are still undecided about the race.
“The North Carolina Governor’s race will likely be a nail-biter for both sides throughout election night,” Husser said.
Cooper is showing solid support among black voters, with 91 percent planning to vote for him, while 63 percent of white voters support McCrory. Only a small portion of voters plan to split their tickets, with 94 percent of Clinton supporters planning to vote for Cooper, and 96 percent of Trump voters supporting McCrory.
U.S. SENATE RACE
Burr, the incumbent Republican in the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina, has pulled ahead slightly since the last Elon poll. He receives the support of 43.5 percent of likely voters compared to 40 percent for Democrat Deborah Ross, a lead that falls within the poll’s margin of error. A closer examination finds a clear split along racial lines that mirrors those seen in other races, with 97 percent of black voters backing Ross and 67 percent of white voters behind Burr.
Burr appears to be generating greater support among older voters, with a 10-point margin among voters 41 to 65 years old and a 4-point margin among voters 66 years old and older. Ross is benefitting from a 2-point margin among voters 40 and younger.
“Most analysts’ early expectations were for Burr to have a comfortable lead on Ross in the U.S. Senate election in North Carolina,” Husser noted. “In late September polls indicated those predictions may have been premature. However, our recent results suggest that North Carolina is leaning towards the Republican incumbent as Election Day fast approaches.”