Raleigh, N.C. – In what appears to be a surge of voter backlash over accusations of criminal conduct, Republican candidate Buck Newton has expanded his lead over incumbent Democratic Senator A.B. Swindell to 10 percent in the intense battle for North Carolina’s 11th district Senate seat, according to a new SurveyUSA poll released today by the Civitas Institute.
According to the poll of 300 registered voters in that district, comprised of Nash and Wilson counties, 50 percent of voters said they would vote for Newton if the election for state senator were held today, a 3 percent increase since last month. Forty-percent of voters said they would vote for Swindell, and 10 percent said they are undecided.
This is up four percentage points from a Civitas poll taken roughly one month ago where Newton led Swindell 47 percent to 41 percent.
“We’re seeing a case of heavy voter backlash against Swindell’s accusations that Newton was arrested on drug charges,” said Civitas Institute Senior Legislative Analyst Chris Hayes. “While Swindell was trailing Newton last month, this incident may prove too much for him to mount a significant comeback before November as most voters feel the line of attack was out of bounds.”
Seventy-two percent of voters who had heard something about the mailer said that it went too far.
Evidence of voter backlash is also seen in an erosion of Swindell’s favorability rating and a large upswing in Newton’s. Swindell’s unfavorable numbers greatly increased (20% favorable-21% unfavorable in September) to 19 percent favorable-37 percent unfavorable, giving him a -18 favorable rating. Additionally, more Democratic voters hold an unfavorable opinion of the senator than those who view him favorably by a 29 percent-25 percent margin.
Conversely, Newton holds a net +23 favorability rating as 41 percent of voters view him favorably while 18 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him, a 16 percent increase from September (25% favorable-13% unfavorable). He is viewed favorably by Republican (64% favorable-11% unfavorable) and unaffiliated voters (39% favorable-23% unfavorable), as well as Democrats by 26 percent-22 percent.
Moreover, 53 percent of voters said they believe Newton is telling the truth about the campaign mailer’s accusations in comparison to 11 percent who believe Swindell. Looking at party affiliation, just 3 percent of unaffiliated voters said they believe Swindell while 58 percent think Newton is telling the truth.
“It is clear that when the Swindell campaign and the NC Democratic Party decided to stand by the mailer after Newton’s evidence, voters determined that it went against their sense of fairness and are thusly punishing Swindell,” added Hayes.
Senate District 11 is rated as a D+4 district on Civitas’ North Carolina Partisan Index – an index that rates the relative partisan voting habits of individual legislative districts. For more on the NCPI, click here.
For full results and crosstabs from the poll, click here.
The survey of 300 registered voters was taken October 8-10 by SurveyUSA on behalf of the Civitas Institute using the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) method. It carries a margin of error of +/- 5.8%.
This SurveyUSA poll was conducted by telephone in the voice of a professional announcer. Respondent households were selected at random, using Random Digit Dialed (RDD) sample provided by Survey Sampling, of Fairfield CT. All respondents heard the questions asked identically. Where necessary, responses were weighted according to age, gender, ethnic origin, geographical area and number of adults and number of voice telephone lines in the household, so that the sample would reflect the actual demographic proportions in the population, using most recent U.S. Census estimates. In theory, with the stated sample size, one can say with 95% certainty that the results would not vary by more than the stated margin of sampling error, in one direction or the other, had the entire universe of respondents been interviewed with complete accuracy. There are other possible sources of error in all surveys that may be more serious than theoretical calculations of sampling error. These include refusals to be interviewed, question wording and question order, weighting by demographic control data and the manner in which respondents are filtered (such as, determining who is a likely voter). It is difficult to quantify the errors that may result from these factors. Fieldwork for this survey was done by SurveyUSA of Clifton, NJ.