Raleigh, N.C. — House Speaker Thom Tillis has lost his early lead among Republican U.S. Senate candidates, and Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan is statistically even with all eight GOP challengers, according to a poll released Tuesday.
Public Policy Polling surveyed 884 registered voters statewide Thursday through Sunday on the Senate race and issues such as the Affordable Care Act and raising the minimum wage. The poll has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
Tillis has been the early front-runner in a crowded GOP field seeking to defeat Hagan, but he and Dr. Greg Brannon of Cary, a tea party favorite, are tied at 14 percent among the 334 Republican voters PPP surveyed. Wilkesboro nurse Heather Grant is third at 11 percent, and no other candidate had more than 7 percent support.
Thirty-six percent of Republican voters remain undecided, according to the poll, which has a margin of plus or minus 5 percentage points on the preference survey.
PPP, which works mainly for Democratic candidates, attributed Tillis' slide to "his gaffes on the campaign trail," noting that he has, in recent weeks, advocated abolishing the minimum wage and referred to the Affordable Care Act as "a great idea that can't be paid for." Neither statement played well with the GOP base, PPP contends.
Seventy-eight percent of the Republican voters surveyed disagreed with the statement that the health care law is a great idea – PPP truncated his quote in its poll question – compared with 48 percent overall who disapprove of it. Twenty percent of those surveyed, including 27 percent of the Republicans, said they would favor getting rid of the minimum wage.
Meanwhile, Hagan has been unable to separate herself from her challengers. In hypothetical head-to-head match-ups with each of the GOP candidates, Hagan leads Tillis and retired Dr. Edward Kryn by 2 percentage points and Grant by 1 percentage point. She is tied with three other candidates and trails Lexington attorney Jim Snyder by 1 percentage point and former Shelby mayor Ted Alexander by 2 percentage points. All of the results are within the poll's margin of error.
PPP notes that Hagan's head-to-head results are better than in recent polls, but her approval rating remains at 41 percent, while 50 percent of respondents gave her job performance a thumbs-down.
Each of the Republican candidates have lower approval ratings than Hagan's, according to the poll, but none except for Tillis has extensive name recognition. More than 70 percent of those polled responded "not sure" when asked of their impression of each of the other seven candidates. Forty-six percent of respondents gave Tillis a "not sure."