Raleigh, N.C. — With a week to go until Election Day, Republican Donald Trump has seized control of a tight presidential race in North Carolina, according to an exclusive WRAL News poll released Tuesday.
SurveyUSA polled 659 people statewide Friday through Monday who have already cast their ballots or are likely to vote in the election and found Trump with a 51 to 44 percent lead over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points.
In a WRAL News poll released three weeks ago, Clinton led Trump 46 to 44 percent.
The latest poll was conducted after the FBI notified members of Congress that it was reopening an investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state. Meanwhile, an Elon University Poll released Tuesday that was conducted before the FBI announcement found Clinton and Trump in a dead heat in North Carolina.
Almost a third of respondents in the WRAL News poll ranked trustworthiness as the most important consideration in voting for president. Positions on issues were rated most important by 40 percent, while experience and character were far behind at 17 and 8 percent, respectively.
Of those ranking trustworthiness most important, 83 percent favor Trump. He also wins among those most concerned about issues, 52 to 43 percent. Clinton was favored by 93 percent of those most concerned with experience, and she doubled up Trump among voters concerned about character, 58 to 26 percent.
Still, many people aren't enthusiastic about either candidate.
Among those voting for either Clinton or Trump, two in five said their ballot was or would be cast simply to oppose the other candidate rather than in support of their candidate, according to the poll. Thirty-eight percent of Trump voters and 32 percent of Clinton backers said they were voting "with reservations" about their candidate.
Breaking down the results, Trump has flipped the gender gap in recent weeks, cutting Clinton's 12-point lead among women down to 7 points while widening his dominance among male voters from 9 points to 23 points. He also has erased her lead among voters 50 and older, moving from a 5-point deficit to an 11-point advantage, while maintaining his slight lead among voters ages 18 to 49.
Clinton's sizable lead in North Carolina's metro areas also has eroded since early October. Her 64 to 27 percent lead among urban voters three weeks ago is down to 53 to 43 percent, and her 9-point lead in the suburbs is now a 2-point deficit. Meanwhile, Trump has extended his lead among rural voters from 18 to 26 points.
The economy continues to be the most important national issue among voters, according to the poll, and Clinton continues to hold the lead over Trump among people ranking it their top concern. But Trump has widened his lead among voters most concerned with national security – the No. 2 overall issue – moving from a 20-point to a 43-point advantage. He also cut into Clinton's lead among voters most concerned with health care – the No. 3 overall issue – narrowing a 39-point deficit in early October to 13 points.
Trump has railed against the Affordable Care Act recently after the government notified people that premiums would go up an average of 24 percent nationwide next year. He also has repeatedly criticized the Obama administration's handling of the fight against Islamic State forces in the Middle East.
The WRAL News poll also questioned people about the potential for voter fraud, given North Carolina's voter ID law that has been overturned in the federal courts and Trump's claims that the election will be rigged in Clinton's favor.
Thirteen percent of respondents said in-person voter fraud occurs often at their particular polling site, and another 32 percent said it sometimes happens. Those people overwhelmingly favor Trump for president, while people who said voter fraud is rare or never occurs at their polling site back Clinton more frequently.