Full interview: SurveyUSA CEO discusses WRAL poll results
SurveyUSA Chief Executive Jay Leve breaks down the numbers in WRAL News' latest presidential poll.
This week, we are releasing our final round of WRL exclusive polling in the 2020 elections we saw partnered with survey U. S. A. And the findings suggest every single ballot is going to matter. Take a look at this first. The presidential election continues to be literally neck and neck. Both nominees tied at 48% Onley. 2% of the voters tell us they're still undecided here to help us. Better understand the results. Survey U. S. A. C e o j Levy J Thanks. Thanks for talking with us. Uh, it's gotten tighter as far as undecided voters ago with each poll, but they continue to be tied in each poll. What was fascinating on this survey is we asked people before the last debate between Biden and Trump. Who are they supporting? 46 Trump 46 bite. Then we said, Okay, now that you saw the debate, who were you supporting? 47 Trump. 47. Biden. And then we said, How about today? Who are you supporting? 48 Trump. 48. Biden. It just does not get any more close than that. So for every mind that's changing in favor of Biden of another mind changing in favor of Trump. And neither one of these nominees likely can win the presidency without winning North Carolina. Such a pivotal state, literally the epicenter of the nation's attention because the Senate races so important. We'll talk about that another day. But today the 15 electoral votes really are a key jewels in the president's crown If he's going to get to 270 j the profound Joe Biden holding a narrow lead in the handling of the pandemic. Yet Donald Trump holds a nine point lead in this poll. When it comes to the economy, is there a single issue on which to base the outcome? Uh, so it depends. How successful Trump and his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, maybe at convincing North Carolinians that, in fact, the pandemic is history A. And there's nothing more weaken as leaders do about it, and let's turn the page and move on to the next topic. If they succeeded that, then they will managed to get voters toe focus on the economy, where Trump continues to believe he has the advantage. Obviously, some rocky road in the Dow Jones, the last 24 hours last 36 hours. But what will be key is if voters believe that the economy will rebound better under Trump. And Trump keeps that message front and center and not the Koven number, front and center. Trump has a chance in North Carolina to eke out a win. You know, that's fascinating, because we've had record numbers of Covic cases here. Even so, people continue toe worry about their pocketbooks in the midst of all the cove in numbers, the two are so inextricably linked, right? Everyone understands that you cannot literally close up your life and say, I'll reopen in two years because there are bills to pay and things to do, eat and drink between now and 24 months from now so that that fine line that everyone has toe walk, which is how much living can I afford to do without dying? It's a tough tightrope, and that is the differentiator right now. Between the Biden message error on the side of caution and the trump message, which is live a little. You know, Jay, we've had pivotal moments over the past few weeks. One the president becoming a co vid 19 patient We mentioned the final debate a moment ago. But then questions over Hunter Biden's business ties are any of those really impacting these results now? Well, let's put it this way. There's been no good news about Joe Biden's family in the last two weeks, so anything that's been in the news has been bad. Now, whether you choose to believe that wholesale, believe it in part or disbelieve it, that's the Biden reality. On the other hand, Trump has had a Siris of what you would call successes during the time that we were conducting research for this survey release Amy Coney Barrett was on live television. Being interviewed, had good comportment, handled himself well after we finished interviewing is when she was sworn in. But the point is, that was the kind of front that the Trump administration wanted to have putting that foot forward Then you have the issue with the social media back to Hunter for one split second, attempting it appeared to some to stifle conservative voices. And that didn't sit well with Trump's conservative voice conservative base, who already feels like there's too much attempt to, uh, suffocate what conservatives want to say. So all of that combined has put a slight tailwind behind Trump compared to our poll two weeks ago, when Trump was just getting out of the hospital and just coming off of what some felt was a surly first debate performance. A slight tailwind, interesting words. Let's talk a little bit about demographics if we can. Ah, majority 51% disapprove of the president's response to the coronavirus. We realize that's important in influencing the vote. But beyond that, let's look at what's happening with older voters here. Older voters who tend particularly in presidential years to make sure they get to the polls to vote. Many of them have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Are they paying attention to their future the way younger people do when they know they're fewer years left in their future? What motivates them to get out and vote eso? We've got a couple wrinkles unique to North Carolina right now. The first is the obvious wrinkle that Biden's senior citizens were all encouraged to vote early, whether by U. S Mail or when North Carolina opened its in person early voting. Trump's voters were told, you know, vote later, meaning on Election Day, and the data supports that, which is a disproportionate number of trump. Voters will vote on Election Day. Why is that responsive to your question? Well, you've got Hurricane Zeta about to come up through the state that's gonna affect early voting on Wednesday and Thursday. I don't know that people are gonna want to stand in line toe early. Vote If hurricane winds are, ah, thunderstorm clouds or, you know, racing through the area, that's number one and number two. When you look at what's going on on Election Day, I checked the forecast on your website just before for Election Day 61 sunny, obviously eight more days until that is the weather. But if it's 61 sunny, that's great news for Republicans who are counting on senior citizens and others to feel safe to show up on Election Day at a polling place, not get co vid feel safe among poll workers, cast their ballot without malfunction of any new equipment or new poll workers who have to be trained specifically for this pandemic election. If all that goes without a hitch, that is great news for the trump site. But if any one of those things doesn't go well. Which is to say, you have bad whether on Election Day you have precinct specific glitches or, God forbid, Countywide problems with technology lets. I'm not suggesting nefarious. I'm just saying I'm just in the normal course of anyone having a massive vote on a statewide basis, their new things that could break technology wise if any of those things happen. That uniquely is bad for the Republicans up and down the ballot because their voters will be the ones standing in those long lines on Election Day. You know, J. As of yesterday, 3.4 million North Carolinians have either voted by mail or in person. Already, 46% of the registered voters in this state have chosen to vote early so far, and there's still a few days left off. Those 52% are women, 41% men, 7% did not identify. Does this give us insight and to what may happen Election night? Or are these percentages just looking at these percentages? And that's what happens now. Come election night, it could be different. It for certain will be different as the early votes and the Election Day votes are blended because they really are oil and water. At the moment, they will not necessarily seamlessly come together. You'll notice when they start tampering with the fuel mixture. Um, so it's fascinating. Thio Thio. Imagine the election night mechanics as the early voters. And we have, by the way, among that group of people that you just described David, who have voted early Biden up by 17 points over Trump, 57 to 40. So on Election Day, Trump has to make up Mawr than that deficit. Now. It doesn't mean that the people who vote between now and Election Day will all favor Biden by 17 points. I don't mean to imply that some Trump voters will get in there and even it up a little bit. But without dispute Biden is going to have. The Democrats will have the advantage among those who choose to vote before Election Day on Election Day. Those numbers should up and down the ballot favor Republicans. You've just pointed out that women were a little more likely to vote than men among the early voters, which is consistent because women are a little bit more democratic in North Carolina than are men who are typically a little more conservative. So again, those forces combined on Election Day big conservative turnout and depending on how the registrar and secretary of state display the numbers. And by that I mean in what order Ballots are opened and results were tabulated, it could very easily be misleading. And by that I mean one guy could leap out to a huge lead its's for it gets It doesn't mean anything. Allow the waves to sort of calm down and let the ballots be counted. Before anyone races to a conclusion that this is over, It's gonna be an early night. It's over prematurely. Just a couple of more things. J. I want to go back to the initial numbers that we talked about at the beginning of the interview, 48 to 48. Trump and Biden are those of voters who have yet to vote or a combination of those who have yet to vote and those who have voted early. So that fuel mixture and we don't set this in advance. We just look at it Afterwards. We do ask people a number of questions. The first of course being Are you registered in North Carolina? And if not, then they skip around. If you're registered, we ask you on a continuum between I'm not interested in politics and it's not my thing. And I'm not gonna vote. Those people obviously are skipped around all the way up to I'm 100% certain that I will vote, but I haven't voted yet And the very next choices no already returned my valley. Now there's a Leighton see between people who tell us they've already returned their ballot. If they've done so by U. S. Mail and when that ballot may actually show up as accounted early vote. So we have it right now that 43% off all voters in North Carolina have told us they have returned their ballot 57%. Both of these groups included in the survey the 43% who already have voted and the 57% who tell us that they have I will certainly vote but have not yet marked their ballot are blended together. And that's what gives us the estimate. 48% Trump 48% by J. One last thing. Four years ago Hillary Clinton was leading in this state, Donald Trump was slightly behind. He ends up carrying the state by at least 3% points. I know it's not 2016 but you can't ignore what happened four years ago. Eso through your lens of doing this for so many years. Do you look at what happened four years ago and you look at today and think, Wow, Anything truly can happen next week. So So all public opinion surveys, by their very definition, are estimates, right? So we estimate Trump at 48 we estimate Biden at 48. And that means that within a comfort zone that if it turned out that one of them 1 51 to 46 that would sort of be the edge of the comfort zone for the numbers I've given you. If one of them wins 55 to 45 that would be extraordinary and beyond anything that any poll that I've seen in North Carolina has contemplated. But any outcome that's in the 50 to 50 49 51 52 to 48 range. All of those outcomes are equally plausible to the numbers that we're putting forward with you today, and no one should be surprised if it's a close Trump win or if it's a close Biden win. Where you could be surprised is if it's an unusually large victory for either candidate that will not be isolated to North Carolina. If that happens, you'll see it ripple across the country, not smart enough to know which way that may go. Very much sober and chastened by what happened in 2016 where every poster understood that they were mortal Number one had egg on their face number two and tried to do better this cycle at estimating that hidden trump vote. That hidden trump enthusiasm and passion that may very well show up on Election Day and carried the state for him. You know, J. The first race that I covered was in 1968 as a teenager working in radio. But every presidential race I have made a prediction, locked it away, put it away somewhere, taken it out the day after the election to see if I was right or wrong, and my great prognostication. Do you ever do anything like that? I'm embarrassed to tell you that we had the whole staff in this was This was not in the 2016 election, but in one of the previous elections, and we actually had people steal their projections and put them in a big jelly bean jar. And we didn't open it up until after the election. And we allowed people's friends and families to participate because we figured, you know, it was just all in good fun. So it turned out that all of us smart pollsters lost to one of my employees father who he had guested on the nose. I think he said Bush, 40 Bush, 43 was gonna win by whatever. It was 40 51 to 48 I thought, You know what? It shows you. You can think, you know something. But the average guy on the street has Justus good an intuition about how things fall. And so let's just say that we're offering the best insight we can. And yet we all understand that there are, especially in 2020 forces at work that may mix and royal up everything. Let us pray that there will be peace on election Day, no matter what your politics might be and a fair vote count. And we come to know the outcome shortly thereafter. And everyone can live with that outcome and feel great about whichever president would choose to elect J. I do have one more question. Our capital bureau Chief Floor Leslie wanted me to make sure toe ask you there was a significant swing in this poll for male voters for Donald Trump. Would you attribute that to the coronavirus handling the economy? Well, I think that Trump needed to be seen by men as the invincible guy that men like to think of him asked. So if you look at that one middle pole, I'm sorry we took three separate polls for you. And if you could imagine in the very first poll and in the very last poll Trump lead among North Carolina men, right? And then all of a sudden, in the middle Pole, there was this bow tie effect where he was even with bite again. So what happened in that middle pole? He was not Mr Invincible. He was in the hospital, right? There were not scenes of him at huge rallies throwing baseball caps to the crowd. There were scenes of him in a helicopter going toe. Walter Reed. So I'm not suggesting that the support among men cratered because we're only talking about two or three voters out of two or three men out of every 100 men. But if two or three men out of every 100 men switch from one candidate to the other, that's a six point swing it for do it. That's an eight point swing, and all of a sudden you'll see that support collapsed here at the finish line with Trump sort of, you know, in effect out viral, three rallies a day, flying all over the country, you know, on the news nonstop with his rally speeches. I think there's a sense among men that he's not enfeebled. He is, uh, rebounded from whatever illness he may have briefly had and that, I think, shows up in what the men are saying to us. J. Levy, Survey, USA CEO. We thank you for your insight. We'll be talking with you later. This week is well be well, David