Local Politics

Poll: Burr leads Marshall in Senate race

Posted June 25, 2010 5:00 p.m. EDT
Updated June 26, 2010 8:16 a.m. EDT

WRAL News Poll image

— Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr would easily defeat Democratic challenger Elaine Marshall if the election were held now, according to a WRAL News Poll released Friday.

SurveyUSA polled 617 likely voters statewide for WRAL on Wednesday and Thursday, and 50 percent said they would vote for Burr, compared with 40 percent for Marshall. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

David McLennan, a political science professor at Peace College, said the the gap between the candidates is bad news for the Marshall campaign, considering that the poll was conducted while Marshall was featured prominently in the news following her victory Tuesday in a runoff election.

"The day before and morning of, she's dominating the headlines (and is) the lead story on television, and yet there's still a double-digit deficit," McLennan said.

Burr holds a 21-point lead among male voters, while Marshall's lead among female voters is 3 percent, according to the poll. He also has commanding leads among voters under age 35, whites and people in the Charlotte and Triad regions.

Marshall has an eight-point lead in eastern North Carolina, while the Triangle is a toss-up between the candidates.

"I think this is an opportunity for the Marshall campaign to try to shore up support among the female population," McLennan said. "We've still got the rest of summer into Labor Day to go, where people really aren't paying attention to electoral politics like they will after Labor Day, so we may see some shifts in these numbers."

A poll question about offshore drilling found North Carolina residents continue to support the idea, despite the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Forty-nine percent of 996 residents surveyed said they back oil and gas exploration off the North Carolina coast, while 41 percent said they oppose the idea. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

The oil spill also didn't make the environment a more pressing national issue in many people's minds, according to the poll. Four percent listed the environment as the most important national issue, up from 3 percent in a WRAL News Poll conducted in March, before the spill occurred.

The economy was named as the most important issue by 63 percent of those surveyed. Health care was named by 9 percent of respondents, followed by immigration and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by 7 percent each.

More than three-fifths of those surveyed disapprove of the federal government's response to the oil spill, while 28 percent said they support the government's efforts.

Regarding the state economy, respondents were a bit more optimistic than two months ago.

Twenty-nine percent of those polled this week said North Carolina's economy would be stronger a year from now, while 30 percent said it would be weaker, and 36 percent said it would be about the same. In an April poll, 26 percent of respondents were bullish on the economy, with 34 percent in a bear mood.