Raleigh, N.C. — Democratic challenger Roy Cooper holds a narrow lead over Republican Gov. Pat McCrory with five weeks remaining in the gubernatorial campaign, according to a WRAL News poll released Tuesday.
Cooper has a 48 to 44 percent lead over McCrory among the 656 likely voters statewide that SurveyUSA polled between last Thursday and Monday. The poll results have a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points.
Libertarian candidate Lon Cecil garnered 2 percent support, while 6 percent of voters remain undecided.
Despite campaigning on an economic turnaround he's labeled the "Carolina Comeback," McCrory isn't well liked among voters, with only a 41 percent approval rating, compared with 47 percent who dislike the job he has done over the last four years, according to the poll. Those are roughly the same numbers found in a WRAL News poll taken before the March primary.
Meanwhile, Cooper, North Carolina's attorney general, has a 46 percent approval rating in the latest poll, compared with 30 percent of voters who give him a thumbs-down. As with McCrory, the numbers are about the same as those from the WRAL News poll conducted before the primary.
(For the record, state lawmakers fared the worst in the latest poll, with a 25 percent approval rating, which was 28 points lower than their disapproval rating.)
Cooper has a 12-point lead among women, a 7-point lead among voters 50 and older and almost a five-to-one margin among black voters, according to the poll. Meanwhile, McCrory has a 5-point lead among men and an 8-point lead among whites. The candidates split the votes of those ages 18 to 49.
While McCrory has a 17-point lead among rural voters, Cooper holds a solid 12-point margin in the suburbs, and he doubles up McCrory in cities statewide.
The edge to Cooper might be among independents, where he holds a 48 to 33 percent margin. He holds an even larger, 27-point lead among voters who classify themselves as moderates.
Twenty-eight percent of respondents ranked the economy as the top issue they consider when voting for governor, followed by House Bill 2 at 17 percent, education spending at 16 percent and health care at 13 percent.
Economy, HB2 among top concerns of voters
McCrory scores well among voters concerned about the economy, with a 56 to 38 percent lead over Cooper. Yet, Cooper is preferred by voters who listed the other three issues as their top concerns, with a 19-point lead among those concerned about House Bill 2, a 25-point lead among those concerned about education and a 15-point lead among those concerned about health care. McCrory has sizable leads among voters most concerned about public safety and taxes, two issues that ranked further down on the list of concerns among North Carolina voters.
Still, the economy could be as much as a drag on McCrory's campaign as House Bill 2 has in recent months.
According to the poll, only 25 percent of respondents feel North Carolina's economy is stronger than it was four years ago, compared with 42 percent who say it's weaker now and 27 percent who say it's about the same as it was in 2012. Likewise, only a quarter of those surveyed said they are personally better off now than four years ago, compared with 41 who say their situation hasn't changed and 29 percent who say their family finances are worse today.
Support for House Bill 2, which prohibits anti-discrimination protections for gay and transgender people, has declined slightly from a WRAL News poll conducted in April, from 38 to 35 percent, with 52 percent now saying they disapprove of the law, up from 50 percent six months ago.
Almost two-thirds of those polled said the law has hurt North Carolina's image and its business recruitment efforts, and 44 percent said should be completely repealed. Only 15 percent of respondents said the law should remain intact, while 33 percent called for some changes to it.
A majority of likely voters said McCrory's or Cooper's position on House Bill 2 would strongly influence their vote in the upcoming election, while another 28 percent said it would be a consideration.