The newest Meredith Poll, conducted October 16-19, 2020, looks at whether voter opinions have changed in the final days of the 2020 campaign. In the new poll, registered voters in North Carolina were asked about their preferences in the presidential, senate, and gubernatorial races.
The poll also covered approval ratings of incumbents Trump, Tillis, and Cooper. Finally, the poll asked North Carolina residents about whether they feel safe in their communities as well as their opinions on COVID-19 response, pandemic stimulus, health care and their satisfaction with the direction of the country and the state.
N.C Voter Opinions on Key Matchups
Biden v. Trump
The Meredith Poll results indicate that Joe Biden has opened a slight lead over Donald Trump (48.1 to 44%) with a small number of voters undecided (4.4%). This represents a slight increase in Biden’s lead since the September Meredith Poll. Both candidates have strong support of their party voters with Biden having the support of 91% of Democrats and Trump garnering support from 88% of Republicans. Unaffiliated voters are currently breaking almost 2-1 for Biden.
White voters slightly favor Trump (50.9% to 42.4%), a decrease in white voter support for Trump since last month. Minority voters strongly favor Biden (81.7% of Black respondents and 63.2% of Hispanic voters), but less so than in recent Meredith Polls. The gender gap is over 12 points with Trump getting a majority of the male vote (55.7%) and Biden getting a majority of the women’s vote (50.5).
Biden does well with voters under 40 years old and among the oldest voters, while Trump is stronger among Gen X and Baby Boomers. Trump continues to poll well with rural voters, but Biden is leading among urban voters (50%) and suburban voters (50.9%).
The Meredith Poll asked for the reason why voters supported each candidate. A large majority of both candidates’ supporters are voting for their candidate, not against the other. Almost two-thirds of Trump supporters (64.6%) said they were voting for the president and only 7% said they were voting against Biden. Less than half of Biden’s supporters said they were voting for him (45%), but 21% said they were voting for him because they preferred Democrats. Just over one-quarter (26.2%) said they were voting against President Trump.
“Joe Biden has grown on Democrats,” said Meredith Poll Director David McLennan. “After Joe Biden sewed up the primary, the popular belief was that the majority of votes he got in the general election would be anti-Trump votes. It appears as that many Democrats have grown to like Joe Biden.”
Cunningham v. Tillis
After a tumultuous period in the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Thom Tillis and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham, there appears to be little change since the October poll. Cunningham maintains his modest lead (43.3%-38.2%) with a high number of respondents (14.1%) indicating they had not made up their mind.
Both candidates get strong support from their respective partisan bases—Cunningham garners 80% support among Democrats and Tillis gets 78.9% support from Republicans. Unaffiliated voters break 2-1 for Cunningham.
Tillis performs better among white voters, but is not as strong as Donald Trump in the presidential race (43%) and Cunningham polls well with Black and Hispanic voters, but not as well as Biden. Among other demographic groups, Tills performs well with males, Gen X voters, and rural voters. Cunningham does slightly better with women, urban voters, and younger voters.
When asked why Cunningham and Tillis supporters were planning on voting (or did vote for) their respective candidates, loyalty to the party was a very important reason for many voters with 38% of those indicating support for Tillis said they supported him because he was a Republican, while 31.8% of Cunningham’s supporters said they supported him because he was a Democrat. A slight plurality of voters supporting both Tillis (39.4%) and Cunningham (39.9%) said their vote was based on support for the individual candidate.
“The two bombshells—Tillis’ COVID diagnosis and Cunningham’s marital infidelity—have not affected the basic trajectory of the race,” said McLennan. “Thom Tillis remains an endangered incumbent. The two ‘October surprises’ may have had the effect of causing a number of voters to say they have not made up their mind.”
Cooper v. Forest
In this survey, Roy Cooper has opened an almost 20 point lead (52.1%-33.7%) over Republican challenger Dan Forest. Although 12.6% of respondents indicated that they were undecided, Cooper is in a strong position for reelection.
Among demographic groups, Cooper is preferred by most groups other than those who call themselves Republicans. Even among Republicans, Cooper garners 20% of their support. Forest polls well among rural voters and those with less than a high school diploma, but otherwise Cooper’s support is strong.
“This is a race in which Roy Cooper has run well the entire year, ” says David McLennan. “His response to the pandemic is supported by most North Carolinians and the fact that Forest has banked his entire campaign on criticizing the governor’s response to the pandemic looks like it hasn’t worked.”
Trump Approval Rating
Since last month’s Meredith Poll, when President Trump had his highest approval ratings during his tenure in office, his approval from respondents has fallen to 43.9%. A majority of North Carolinians (53.6%) continue to disapprove of the president’s job performance with most of those (43.1%) strongly disapproving of his work as president.
The president’s job approval splits along predictable lines with 84.7% of Republicans approving of his work and stronger ratings among white, male, and rural voters. His strongest critics are minority voters, women, and younger voters.
“The president’s job approval drop is significant at this point in the campaign,” said McLennan. “His weak first presidential debate, COVID diagnosis, and the continued fallout of the pandemic have hurt Trump’s approval even among Republicans as his approval was over 90% in pre-pandemic times.”
Tillis Approval Rating
Thom Tillis’ job approval remains low (40.2%) and below that of President Trump. Even among Republicans, Tillis’ support is relatively low at 67.3%. A majority of males and rural voters still approve of the job Tillis is doing as senator, but other groups disapprove of Tillis’s performance.
“It is Tillis’s lukewarm approval among Republicans that makes his reelection campaign so difficult,” said McLennan. “His recent campaign strategy to criticize Cal Cunningham for marital infidelity and corruption does not do much to improve his own approval ratings, even among Republicans.”
Cooper Approval Rating
Roy Cooper continues to have the strongest approval among the three top elected officials running in 2020. A majority of North Carolinians (53.5%) approve of the job he is doing as governor. Over three quarters of Democrats (75.7%) approve of the job he is doing, along with 57.7% of unaffiliated voters. Even almost 40% of Republicans (39.3%) approve of the job Cooper is doing.
“Cooper’s approval tracks with the respondents’ views of how the state has handled the pandemic response,” said McLennan. “They think the state has done a good job handling the crisis and, since the governor has been the most visible person leading the pandemic response, it makes sense that they view him in positive terms.”
The Meredith Poll also asked North Carolinians about issues, including safety, COVID-19 response, and health care, that may affect their voting decisions.
A large majority of North Carolinians (81.4%) feel safe in their communities, while only 16.8% feel unsafe. A majority of all demographic groups–partisans, men and women, ethnic and racial groups, and voters that lived in urban, suburban, and rural parts of the state–felt safe. The only group that reported slightly higher levels of concern for safety in their communities was Hispanics (31.6%) and, even then, the majority of respondents in this group felt safe.
Almost two-thirds of respondents (65.6%) indicated that the government’s response to the pandemic was a significant factor in who they are voting for in 2020. Their views of how the federal and state governments are handling the pandemic might have significant effects on which party controls the White House, Governor’s Mansion, and a seat in the U.S. Senate next year.
Over half of the respondents (52.4%) thought the federal government’s response to the pandemic was ineffective, while 44.8% thought it was effective. Over three-quarters of Republicans thought the federal government’s response has been effective, while an almost equal number of Democrats and unaffiliated voters considered the response ineffective.
In considering the state’s response to the pandemic, however, 60.7% of North Carolinians feel the actions were effective and just 34.5% considered the state’s actions to be ineffective. Support for the state government’s response to the pandemic was strong across demographic groups with even partisan groups generally supporting the response.
“It is interesting that the federal government’s response to the pandemic is a highly partisan issue, but the state’s response to the pandemic is much less polarizing,” said David McLennan. “This issue is a top issue for most voters and it may hurt President Trump’s reelection bid but help Governor Cooper.”
A great majority of North Carolinians (83.4%), would like to see the federal government pass another stimulus package to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with just over 10 percent saying another stimulus package is unnecessary. There were few differences between voter groups in support of the desire for another stimulus package.
Health care continues to be a significant factor in the 2020 election with almost 70 percent of voters saying it is the most important or one of the most important issues affecting their decision of who they will support at the polls. Over one-in-five (21.3%) indicate that it is the top issue. Less than one-quarter consider it to be an unimportant issue.
A strong majority of North Carolinians (57.9%) favor the Affordable Care Act, although there are great partisan differences in support for this law. Over 80% of Democrats support the ACA, while just 30% of Republicans do so. However, among other demographic groups, including racial and ethnic groups, men and women, and those of different educational levels, there is consistent support.
Satisfaction with Direction of the Country
Almost two-thirds of the respondents to our survey indicated that they were dissatisfied with the direction of the country, a decrease of about five percentage points since the September survey. Democrats (86.7%) and unaffiliated voters (82.2%) were the most dissatisfied groups, along with respondents of color (80.5% of Black voters and 63.2% of Hispanic voters), while the most satisfied group was Republican voters at just over 55%.
Satisfaction with the Direction of North Carolina
A plurality of North Carolinians (46.5%) are dissatisfied with the direction of the state with just under 40 percent indicating they are satisfied. Most demographic groups feel more dissatisfied with political partisanship being less important in people’s level of dissatisfaction than it has in recent surveys. It is important to note that respondents felt less dissatisfied with the direction of the state than the direction of the country.
About The Meredith Poll
The Meredith Poll conducted a survey of North Carolina registered voters October 16-19, 2020. The sample had 732 respondents, giving us a confidence interval of +/- 3.5%. The online sample —from Dynata— used a census quota before the questionnaire was administered. We used screening questions to produce a sample of likely voters. After the survey was completed, we weighted the sample for race, education, party affiliation, and location.
The Meredith Poll is part of the College’s commitment to civic engagement. Learn more at meredith.edu/meredith-poll.