Raleigh, N.C. — Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and former Wake County Democratic lawmaker Deborah Ross hold large leads for their respective parties' nominations for U.S. Senate in next week's North Carolina primary, but many voters are still undecided, according to a WRAL News poll released Tuesday.
SurveyUSA polled 1,555 likely voters statewide – almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats – between Friday and Monday to gauge opinions leading up to the March 15 primary. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
Burr, who is seeking his third six-year term in the Senate, outdistanced Dr. Greg Brannon, a Cary obstetrician who also ran for Senate in 2014 among likely Republican voters by 45 percent to 17 percent. Retired judge Paul Wright and Greensboro businessman Larry Holmquist registered in the single digits. Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed said they haven't made up their minds in the race.
Among likely Democratic voters, "Undecided" would defeat Ross, 44 percent to 34 percent, if the election were held today. The other three candidates – Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey, Durham businessman Kevin Griffin and retired Army officer Ernest Reeves – all were in single digits in the poll.
Ross holds clear leads among women and older voters, although the race is tighter among younger voters. Undecided voters accounted for sizable chunks of responses across different demographics.
Burr likewise lapped the field in a number of demographic segments, from age to gender to income or education level. Brannon, who has built his base on tea party support, holds a narrow lead among voters who identify themselves as tea party members.
Still, Burr faces a negative approval rating. Forty-three percent of those polled disapprove of his job performance in the Senate, compared with 34 percent approval. Much of that disapproval appears to be ideological in nature, with voters who identify themselves as pro-choice, non-evangelical or not owning a gun accounting for some of the largest deficits in his approval rating.
Burr also might be burdened by the fact that voters despise Congress. The congressional approval rating was 12 percent, according to the poll, compared with 77 percent who disapprove of the actions – or inaction – on Capitol Hill.
For example, although Senate Republicans have vowed not to consider any nominee to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court until next year, a majority of those surveyed in the WRAL News poll said President Barack Obama's pick should receive a hearing and a vote this year. The poll results broke along political ideology, with those identifying themselves as Republican or conservative holding out for a 2017 vote and those identifying themselves as independent, Democrat or liberal pushing for a quicker vote.
The poll also addressed another subject up for congressional action: the Affordable Care Act. The health care law continues to generate a range of responses, with 51 percent of those surveyed calling for repealing all or part of it, 32 percent backing adjustments to improve the law and 14 percent saying Congress should leave the law alone.