The latest Civitas poll of likely voters gives both major parties something to fret over regarding the two statewide federal races this fall.
Democrat’s fear factor: Trump is on pace to win North Carolina again
President Donald Trump leads former Vice President Joe Biden 47% to 44%.
While that advantage may seem small (and is within the 4.38% margin of error*), it is the same margin Trump enjoyed over Hilary Clinton at a similar point in 2016, a race that Trump won. Biden’s support is also squishier than Trump’s; 43% of respondents said that they would definitely vote for Trump while only 36% said that they would definitely vote for Biden.
Democrats also have to worry about a repeat of 2016, when Trump voters also helped Republicans win a majority of Council of State positions for the first time in modern history.
Republican’s fear factor: Will Tillis survive North Carolina’s incumbent senator curse?
North Carolina has been brutal to its incumbent senators not named Jesse Helms over the past half-century. Since 1972, only two senators have been reelected: the aforementioned Helms (who was reelected four times) and Richard Burr (who has been reelected twice). During the same period, seven sitting senators have lost their reelection bids. Will Sen. Thom Tillis be able to break that curse?
It won’t be easy.
The Civitas poll has Tillis up against his Democratic opponent Cal Cunningham 38% to 36%. While that margin is similar to the margin in the presidential race, Tillis is an incumbent senator who has less than 40 percent support. Tillis also has little advantage in strength-of-support; 30% of respondents say that they will definitely vote for Tillis while 28% say that they will definitely vote for Cunningham.
To make matters worse for Tillis, five percent of respondents say that they plan to vote for either Libertarian Shannon Bray or Constitution Party candidate Kevin Hayes. Both of those parties are traditionally believed to pull more votes from Republican candidates than Democrats. On the other hand, Tillis may have more to gain if support for those two candidates fades.
Poll links for further reading:
- Press release (including boilerplate)
- For a deeper dig: full results
- For data nerds: 126 pages of crosstabs
(*One of my pet peeves is calling races in which the results are within the margin of error a “statistical tie.” While it is possible for Biden to be ahead 48%-43%, it is equally possible for Trump to be up 51%-40%. So, while you cannot say with certainty that Trump is actually outpacing Biden in the population of likely voters, it is more likely. Here is a brief list of other problems with the “statistical tie.”)