WRAL News poll points to McCrory, Dalton race for governor

Posted May 1, 2012 4:36 p.m. EDT
Updated May 2, 2012 6:49 a.m. EDT

— With a week to go until North Carolina's primary, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton is leading the Democratic field for governor, while former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory should capture the Republican nomination with ease, according to a new WRAL News poll.

SurveyUSA polled 461 likely Republican voters and 560 likely Democratic voters between last Thursday and Monday and found that a large segment remains undecided about most races.

McCrory would win 65 percent of the votes in the GOP primary, while none of his five opponents would top 3 percent, according to the poll. Twenty-one percent were undecided. The Republican poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percent.

Dalton is leading former Congressman Bob Etheridge by 32 to 23 percent, and the other four candidates were in single digits for support, according to the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percent. Nearly a third of voters remain undecided.

Dalton leads among most demographics, although independents favor Etheridge by 43 to 27 percent and the two candidates are in a dead heat for voters who identify themselves as moderate.

Etheridge also holds a slight lead in the Triangle, while Dalton dominates in the Charlotte area, the Triad and eastern North Carolina.

In a WRAL News poll in mid-March, Etheridge held a narrow lead over Dalton in terms of approval rating.

"All these numbers are moving. They're soft," Etheridge said. "I think the voters are just starting to pay attention (to the race) in the last couple of days."

Dalton wasn't taking his late lead for granted. "The only poll that matters is on May 8," he said.

David McLennan, a political science professor at William Peace University in Raleigh, said the positive message Dalton has put forward in his ads has helped his campaign. On the other hand, he said, Etheridge needs a new message.

"He's got to move away from the kind of advertising he's doing, which is associating himself with (President) Barack Obama and educational policies of 20 years ago," McLennan said.

Although McCrory has a huge lead in funding, McLennan said he expects a tight race in November.

The poll also found that North Carolina voters are fairly split on the idea of raising the state sales tax rate by 0.75-cent to generate more money for public schools. Forty-six percent oppose the increase, while 43 percent support it. The poll of 1,636 registered voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Gov. Beverly Perdue chose not to seek re-election so she could lobby for the increase, and both Dalton and Etheridge favor it, while McCrory is against raising taxes.

In the races for lieutenant governor, 41 percent of Republican voters and 36 percent of Democrats remain undecided, according to the poll.

Among those who have made up their minds, state personnel director Linda Coleman tops state Sen. Eric Mansfield on the Democratic side by 41 to 23 percent. Wake Forest architect Dan Forest holds a 17 to 13 percent lead over state Rep. Dale Folwell on the Republican side, with Wake County Commissioner Tony Gurley and state Rep. Grey Mills close behind Folwell.