Poll: Many voters still undecided in governor's race
Posted October 28, 2008 5:59 p.m. EDT
Updated October 28, 2008 7:30 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — With one week until the general election, 9 percent of North Carolina voters remain undecided about whom to support in the race for governor, according to a WRAL News poll released Tuesday.
Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. surveyed 800 likely voters statewide between last Wednesday and Friday and found Democratic Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue holding a 46 to 44 percent lead over Republican Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
But large numbers of women, blacks, young voters and independents haven't made up their minds in the race, which means it remains a toss-up, said John Davis, who's tracked political races for more than two decades as an independent consultant and former president of non-partisan political research business association NCFREE.
"There are clear ideological differences at the presidential level that aren't present in the gubernatorial race," Davis said. "McCrory has been a progressive mayor of a large city, and Perdue has been a moderate throughout her career. They're both centrists, which makes the choice harder for some people."
As with the presidential race, clear dividing lines mark the battle between Perdue and McCrory.
Perdue built her political career in the New Bern area, and she draws almost 60 percent of the vote from the Triangle and in eastern North Carolina. McCrory, a seven-term mayor in Charlotte, garners the majority of support in that metro area and in the Triad and leads Perdue in western North Carolina as well.
"If Perdue can turn out a large number in eastern North Carolina, she's going to be holding an election night party," said Joe Sinsheimer, a former Democratic consultant. "On the flip side, if McCrory can turn out a large voter turnout in Charlotte and west of Charlotte, he's going to be celebrating on election night."
Perdue holds a double-digit lead among independent voters – 47 to 33 percent – but 17 percent of independents remain undecided. That segment is the largest undecided bloc in the WRAL News poll, including the results of the presidential and U.S. Senate races.
Democratic strategist Gary Pearce said he believes Perdue benefits from Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's coattails among independents.
"Part of what that tells you is, this year, it's the tide, not the swimmers," Pearce said.
Republican strategist Carter Wrenn disagreed, predicting more undecided voters would break toward McCrory.
"(It will be a combination of) a little bit among Republicans (and) a little bit among conservative Democrats," Wrenn said.
Those surveyed gave McCrory the edge when it comes to handling the state economy – that is the top issue among voters statewide, according to the poll – but they see Perdue as the more capable candidate for handling every other major North Carolina issue, from improving public education to restructuring the mental health system to overseeing the state budget.
Other segments of the population where Perdue holds leads also have large numbers of undecided voters:
Among black voters, where she holds a commanding 78 to 9 percent advantage, 13 percent remain undecided.
Among voters ages 18 to 34, where she leads 53 to 34 percent, 13 percent are undecided.
Among women, where she leads 51 to 38 percent, 10 percent are undecided.
"Perdue has been around a long time and people know her, and to have this many people, especially women and blacks – two groups that traditionally vote Democrat – undecided this close to the election could be a problem for her," Davis said.
A hangover from the Democratic primary could boost McCrory's chances to become the first Republican governor in the state in 16 years, Davis said. As many as a third of the Democrats who voted for State Treasurer Richard Moore in his primary battle with Perdue now back McCrory, he said.
Perdue also could be defeated amid the nationwide call for political change, he said.
"The anti-establishment mood is keeping McCrory in the running," he said.