- Three recent polls have put Republican Ted Budd ahead of Democrat Cheri Beasley as the race for North Carolina's open U.S. Senate seat enters the homestretch.
- The new poll results reflect a nationwide trend in the GOP’s favor, as voters cite concerns about the economy and raging inflation as top-of-mind issues.
A new Civitas poll of likely voters shows that Republicans in North Carolina are gaining momentum heading into the homestretch of the midterm campaign.
The state’s highest profile race this year — for the open U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Richard Burr — is inching in the GOP’s direction. Republican Ted Budd now leads Democrat Cheri Beasley 47% to 43%. In August, the Civitas poll put Budd and Beasley tied at 42% apiece.
Budd has improved his performance in other recent polls as well. An East Carolina University poll gave him a 50% to 44% edge, while a Trafalgar poll put Budd up 48% to 44%.
The new poll results drop the same day former President Barack Obama endorsed Beasley in a new campaign ad.
“North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race continues to feel like it is one of those ‘margin of victory will be within the margin of error’ type contests, now with two weeks to go,” said Dr. Michael Bitzer, professor of politics and history at Catawba College in Salisbury. “But unless something dramatic happens to re-energize Democrats and pull that small piece of persuadable voters back to the Democrats, the midterm should fall into the classic result mirroring the past 16 out of 18 midterm elections, with the president’s party losing congressional seats.”
“This is the third poll in a row that has Ted Budd leading Cheri Beasley above and beyond outside the margin of error,” noted Dr. Chris Cooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University. “This constitutes a clear trend towards Ted Budd and away from Cheri Beasley, and reinforces the Cook Political Report rating of ‘leans Republican.’ It’s been a good few weeks for Ted Budd.”
Republican candidates also improved their standing on the generic ballot for legislative and congressional races, according to the Civitas poll. Respondents favored the GOP over Democrats 50% to 44% in the generic ballot for both the N.C. General Assembly and Congress. Republicans have improved their performance by around 3 percentage points since August.
Two races for seats on the N.C. Supreme Court continue to trend in Republicans’ favor as well — as Republicans Richard Dietz and Trey Allen lead Democrat opponents Lucy Inman and Sam Ervin 49% to 42% in each race.
The new Civitas results reflect a recent polling trend nationwide in the GOP’s favor, as voters cite concerns about the economy and raging inflation as top-of-mind issues.
“The conventional wisdom is that the party of the president loses seats in a midterm election. There is less and less reason to doubt that 2022 will provide any deviation from that historical pattern,” said Cooper.
The percentage of voters dissatisfied with the direction of the U.S. jumped 7 percentage points — from 66% in September to 73% in October. President Joe Biden’s approval rating stands at 38%, compared to 55% who disapprove.
The dissatisfaction with Biden was born-out in a question on whether he should run for re-election in 2024 — 65% of respondents said “no” and only 26% “yes.” Democrats were split on the question 41% to 42%, while unaffiliated voters were 66% to 25% against Biden running for a second term.
On the state level, voters have a more favorable view of Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper — with 46% approving and 44% disapproving. But asked if they would support Cooper as a possible vice presidential nominee in 2024, 45% said they would be opposed and 41% support.
Eighty-eight percent of respondents ranked the economy as either “poor” or “fair.” Eight-nine percent said they are “concerned” about the price of food, and 66% said they believe the cost of groceries will be higher in a year.
“What most of us who study campaigns and midterm elections were waiting for seems to have finally broken at the two-week point to Election Day, and that is the undecideds and late-deciding voters seem to breaking to one party, and that is the Republican Party,” said Bitzer. “That’s a classic dynamic in most elections, and it fits into the fundamental of the president’s party not getting those voters due to the referendum that midterms tend to operate on. Combine that fact with continued presence of economic issues, notably inflation, and the overall electoral environment is pretty much playing out as we would expect it to do so in typical fashion.”
The poll was conducted Oct. 20-22 and surveyed 600 likely general election voters.