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Biden leads in North Carolina as voters give Trump poor marks on virus, race relations

Joe Biden leads Donald Trump by a 7-point margin in the key swing state of North Carolina, a new NBC News/Marist poll finds.

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Carrie Dann
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden leads Donald Trump by a 7-point margin in the key swing state of North Carolina, a new NBC News/Marist poll finds, with voters also favoring Democratic Senate and gubernatorial candidates and saying by a 2-1 margin that the state was right to balk at the Trump administration’s Charlotte convention plans over concerns about coronavirus safety protocols.

Among registered voters, Biden gets the support of 51 percent, compared with 44 percent who back Trump. In March, Biden had a 4-point advantage in a head-to-head matchup, 49 percent to 45 percent.

Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham leads GOP incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis in the poll by a 9-point margin, with the backing of 50 percent of voters compared to the Republican’s 41 percent.

And incumbent Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who spent much of the spring in a dispute with the Trump administration over its efforts to hold the in-person Republican National Convention in Charlotte despite the ongoing pandemic, easily bests his Republican challenger, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, 58 percent to 38 percent.

Cooper, who recently paused the state’s reopening plan and issued a statewide mask mandate in response to rising coronavirus cases, has a positive approval rating from 59 percent of voters, compared with 35 percent who disapprove.

Meanwhile, President Trump’s job approval rating among North Carolina voters stands at just 41 percent, with a majority — 55 percent — disapproving. That’s a net drop of 11 points since March, when 45 percent approved and 48 percent disapproved.

And just 32 percent of North Carolina voters say that state leaders were wrong to insist on safety protocols for the convention, which Republican officials ultimately dismissed as too strict and moved the president’s nomination speech to Jacksonville, Fla. Six-in-ten agreed with the statement that “the state was right to prioritize its health protocols for large gatherings over the objections of the president.”

The poll was conducted July 14-22, before the president announced late Thursday that the Jacksonville event would also be canceled due to logistical and safety concerns.

Trump still leads on the economy, but Biden has double digit leads on handling coronavirus, race relations

In a head-to-head contest, Biden leads with independents (49 percent to 41 percent), Black voters (86 percent to 8 percent), women (58 percent to 37 percent) and with voters who dislike both major candidates (52 percent to 27 percent.)

Trump maintains an advantage with white voters (54 percent to 42 percent), men (52 percent to 43 percent), and white voters without a college degree (69 percent to 28 percent).

Mirroring national polls, Trump also has an edge on the intensity of his support. Seventy-five percent of Trump voters in North Carolina say they strongly support him, while 64 percent of Biden voters say the same.

Voters in the state also still choose Trump over Biden when it comes to economic issues, with 52 percent saying Trump is the candidate better equipped to handle the economy, compared with 39 percent who choose Biden.

But on dealing with race relations, just 31 percent say Trump is the better candidate, while 53 percent choose Biden.

Trump has a similar deficit when voters are asked who would better handle the coronavirus, with just 34 percent selecting him as the more competent candidate to deal with the health crisis, compared with 51 percent who choose the Democratic nominee.

Overall, about half of voters in North Carolina — 48 percent — say the pandemic in the state is getting worse. Just 14 percent say it is getting better, while 36 percent say it is staying about the same.

The share who say the pandemic is getting worse includes 66 percent of Biden voters but just 28 percent of Trump voters.

“Biden is in good shape in North Carolina as long as the coronavirus or race relations is top of mind,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “His downside is if focus shifts to the economy where Trump has the advantage.”

What the poll’s sample looks like

As Marist works to ensure that harder-to-reach voters are included in its samples, 20 percent of this poll’s sample of registered voters resides in the Raleigh-Durham area, 16 percent are from the Charlotte area, 25 percent are from the eastern portion of the state, 21 percent are from the Piedmont region and 17 percent come from the western part of the state.

For registered voters, 19 percent live in major cities, 19 percent live in small cities, 14 percent are suburban dwellers, 28 percent are from small towns, and 20 percent of the sample is made up of rural voters.

Thirty-five percent identified as Democrats, 29 percent as Republicans and 36 percent as independents.

Thirty-eight percent of voters in the sample were white voters without a college degree, while 30 percent were white voters with a college degree.

The NBC News/Marist poll of North Carolina was conducted July 14-22 of 1,067 adults, which has a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points. The margin of error among the 882 registered voters the poll surveyed is +/- 4.0 percentage points.


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