Raleigh, N.C. — U.S. Sen. Richard Burr continues to widen his lead over Democrat Elaine Marshall in his bid for re-election, according to a WRAL News Poll released Tuesday.
SurveyUSA polled 582 likely voters statewide Friday through Monday and found that, if the election were held now, Burr would garner 58 percent of the vote to Marshall's 34 percent. Only 2 percent of respondents were undecided.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
Two months ago, Burr held a 46 to 36 percent lead in a similar poll.
In the latest poll, which comes one month before one-stop early voting begins, Burr has erased the gender gap by beating Marshall among both male and female voters. Marshall had previously held a slight edge among women, but Burr now leads that group by 51 to 42 percent.
Burr also holds substantial leads among all age groups and income and education levels among voters, as well as in the Charlotte, Greensboro and eastern North Carolina areas. The Triangle remains a dead heat between the candidates.
He has a favorable image among 36 percent of the 862 registered voters polled, while 26 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of him and 30 percent were neutral. Twenty-seven percent of respondents have a favorable opinion of Marshall, with another 25 percent unfavorable and 36 percent neutral.
Burr has been able to deflect the sour mood of voters toward Congress. Seventy-four percent of those polled said they disapprove of the job their representatives and senators are doing on Capitol Hill. Fifteen percent said they approve of the job Congress is doing.
David McLennan, a political science professor at Peace College in Raleigh, said Burr has benefited from a conservative voting record that prevented a Tea Party challenger from running against him.
"He's been able to avoid what other Republican senators around the country have had to deal with, which is an attack from the right as well as an attack from the left," McLennan said.
Unlike Burr, Marshall hasn't run any television ads so far in the campaign, which McLennan said makes it difficult for her to get her message out across the state.
"The three debates are going to be critical for her to kind of knock down Burr and make some headway with voters," he said.
A majority of those polled – 52 percent – gave President Barack Obama an unfavorable rating, compared with 35 percent who said they view him favorably. Gov. Beverly Perdue had a slightly lower unfavorable rating at 49 percent, but only 21 percent of respondents said they have a favorable opinion of her.
The economy is by far the most pressing issue in the minds of voters, according to the poll. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said it's the most important issue facing the U.S., and immigration and health care tied for a distant second place at 6 percent each.
Sixty-three percent of those polled said they believe the country is on the wrong track, compared with 28 percent who said the U.S. is headed in the right direction. Blacks were the most optimistic group, according to the poll, with 61 percent saying the country is doing fine. Meanwhile, 94 percent of respondents who said they support the Tea Party movement said the nation is off track.
On the state level, 28 percent of those polled said the North Carolina economy would be stronger a year from now, and 30 percent said it would be weaker. Thirty-six percent said the state economy would remain about the same as it is now.