Poll: Trump losing ground in NC

Three weeks out from Election Day, President Donald Trump is losing ground to Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the battleground state of North Carolina, according to the results of a WRAL News poll released Tuesday.

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Matthew Burns
, WRAL.com senior producer/politics editor
RALEIGH, N.C. — Three weeks out from Election Day, President Donald Trump is losing ground to Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the battleground state of North Carolina, according to the results of a WRAL News poll released Tuesday.

SurveyUSA polled 669 likely voters across the state between last Thursday and Sunday for the exclusive poll, which also found voters turned off by Trump's large, in-person campaign rallies during the coronavirus pandemic. The responses to the poll have credibility intervals of +/- 4.5 to 4.8 percentage points.

Biden now holds a 50-45 percent lead over Trump in the state. In a WRAL News poll conducted a month ago, both men were tied at 47 percent each.

Jay Leve, chief executive of SurveyUSA, said other polls conducted in North Carolina in recent weeks reflect the same move by voters toward Biden. While a five-point deficit is "not insurmountable," Leve noted that a growing number of people are casting their ballots each day, which gives Trump a declining number from which to make up ground.

Trump has lost ground in numerous key demographics that help form his base, from male voters to self-described working class voters to gun owners to military household members:

  • His 17-point lead among men is down to two points, 49-47 percent. The swing is even more dramatic among suburban men, where the president lost a 26-point lead and now trails Biden 49-44 percent.
  • Biden now leads 52-45 percent among working-class voters, compared with a three-point Trump lead a month ago.
  • Trump's 36-point lead among gun owners has been whittled down to eight points, 52-44 percent.
  • Biden now holds a 47-46 percent edge among military households, compared with Trump's 15-point lead in mid-September.

The former vice president also has built on his leads in some of his own key demographics, from younger voters to Black and Latino voters to moderates to people living in North Carolina's metro areas:

  • He now holds a 26-point lead among voters ages 18 to 34, at 59 to 33 percent, up from 18 points a month ago. Among voters younger than 50, his lead has grown from five points to 17 points.
  • A month ago, he held a staggering 88-4 percent lead among Black voters, and that has grown to 93-3 percent. Among Latino voters, he now holds a 51-38 percent lead, up from 48-42 percent.
  • Self-described moderates now swing for Biden by more than two-to-one, at 63 to 30 percent, compared with 55-34 percent in mid-September.
  • City dwellers had provided Biden with an eight-point margin a month ago, but it's now two-to-one, at 64 to 32 percent. Biden also continues to hold an eight-point lead among suburban voters across the state.

Among the few bright spots for Trump are that he has erased some of Biden's lead among women, down to 11 points from 16 points, much of that from picking up previously undecided women. The gains were even bigger among suburban women, where Biden was previously up 60-30 percent. It's now down to 53-41 percent.

Trump also increased his leads among older voters and rural voters. He now holds a 16-point lead, 57-41 percent, among voters age 65 or older, up from four points a month ago. Rural voters across the state now back the president by 16 points, up from 13.

North Carolina voters now see Trump as less capable to handle key issues facing the country, and part of that could be tied to his own recent bout of COVID-19, according to the poll.

Although 56 percent of likely voters said Trump catching coronavirus wouldn't affect how they vote in the upcoming election, 29 percent said they were now somewhat or much more likely to vote for Biden because of it. Only 13 percent said they were more likely to vote for Trump.

Eric Helm is among the majority, saying he made up his mind about how to vote this year "since November of 2016." Still, he said he felt bad when Trump announced he was infected and then was hospitalized for three days.

"It’s just like anybody else. You don’t want to get the coronavirus, you don’t want to see anyone get the coronavirus at all," Helm said.

Trump and Biden were seen as equally capable of handling the pandemic in the previous WRAL poll, but Biden now holds a 49-43 percent lead on that issue. Trump's three-point margin in terms of handling public safety has been flipped, with Biden now leading by four points. In terms of handling the economy, Trump's nine-point lead has been trimmed to five points.

The same demographics that drove overall support for Biden also were behind the swings in the issue-related questions: men, younger voters, minorities, moderates, working class voters and city dwellers.

"There appears to be an emerging consensus, not just in North Carolina, but elsewhere, that the president has not learned from perhaps mistakes that he and others around him made that caused him and others to get sick," Leve said. "Now, instead of a circumspect and a I-now-see-it-more-clearly president, you have a much more defiant and an I'm-cured-and-immune president, and we have to see how that will play with voters."

Still, Leve added, Trump the businessman still gets the benefit of the doubt on economic matters.

Almost twice as many likely voters said Trump should halt his campaign rallies as those who said he should continue, 57 to 29 percent. Voters age 65 and older – among the high-risk groups for COVID-19 – men, white voters, military household members, evangelicals and parents of K-12 students were disproportionately in favor of the rallies. Women, voters ages 18 to 34, Black voters, moderates, poor and working-class voters and city dwellers were most likely to call for an end to the rallies.

"It's really a tough call for President's Trump's core supporters," Leve said. "Even if the president himself keeps his distance from the crowd, the crowd itself is next to each other, and that risks becoming a health event that no one would wish."

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the campaign is taking safety precautions during the rallies.

"We encourage mask wearing. We hand out masks at the rallies. Hand sanitizer, as well, is available," McEnany said.

"I don’t think in-person rallies are a very good idea right now, just because they are drawing crowds where they shouldn’t be," Sarah Banko said.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, discouraged rallies during a Tuesday briefing, alluding to a White House ceremony where Trump and a number of other officials became infected.

"There are certain events that folks have been to, whether they're political rallies or other large gatherings where folks are close together and not wearing masks, where this virus spreads," Cohen said. "I think we learned that from Washington, D.C., and the White House itself. When you are close together without masks, this virus spreads."

For Helm, the rallies have further solidified his thinking about how he will vote.

"I think the way that the current president has handled the situation entirely has been his campaign enough," he said.

WRAL anchor/reporter David Crabtree and WRAL reporter Keely Arthur contributed to this report.


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