Raleigh, N.C. — Although House Speaker Thom Tillis has a clear lead in the U.S. Senate race Republican primary, he likely will face a runoff, according to a WRAL News poll released Thursday.
SurveyUSA polled 405 likely Republican primary voters in North Carolina Monday through Wednesday and found that Tillis also has the best favorability rating with voters among the eight Senate candidates. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
Thirty-four percent of voters surveyed said they have a favorable opinion of Tillis, compared with 11 percent who have an unfavorable opinion of him, for a margin of plus-23, according to the poll. Cary Dr. Greg Brannon is second with a plus-16 (27 percent favorable vs. 11 percent unfavorable), followed by Rev. Mark Harris of Charlotte at plus-14 (23 percent favorable vs. 9 percent unfavorable).
Yet, Harris would finish fifth in the primary if it were held now, according to the poll.
Tillis now claims 28 percent of the vote, followed by Brannon at 15 percent and Wilkesboro nurse Heather Grant at 11 percent. Harris polled at 6 percent among likely primary voters, behind former Shelby mayor Ted Alexander, who had 7 percent.
A candidate needs 40 percent of the vote in the primary to avoid a runoff, meaning Tillis needs to win the majority of the 23 percent of likely voters who said they are still undecided in the race.
The winner of the May 6 primary or subsequent runoff faces Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in November.
Tillis' strongest support is among older voters, garnering 40 percent among those 50 and older. Meanwhile, Grant was favored among voters ages 18 to 34, winning 17 percent of the vote in that group.
In addition to outdueling Harris for support in their shared home base of Charlotte (26 to 11 percent), Tillis also easily beats Brannon in the Triangle (32 to 12 percent). Brannon leads in eastern North Carolina, while Tillis also is tops in the Triad, according to the poll.