News: CJ Exclusives

Final statewide Civitas Poll shows Democrats in the lead while unaffiliateds trend Republican

CJ file photo
CJ file photo

Unaffiliated North Carolina voters are trending Republican, the conservative Civitas Institute found in its latest statewide poll. Even so, the Democratic Party maintains a lead on the generic ballot.

The poll was presented at the Oct. 25 luncheon where Civitas Institute President Donald Bryson explained what the results could mean for the upcoming election.

The poll, which surveyed 500 likely voters, was conducted between Oct. 18 and Oct. 21. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent. Harper Polling gathered responses using landlines and cell phones.

With the Nov. 6 general election fast approaching, Civitas asked voters about a range of political issues at the national and state level.

The N.C. Supreme Court poll continues to spell trouble for the incumbent, Republican Justice Barbara Jackson. Jackson is polling at 16 percent, up 5 points from the September poll. Republican challenger Chris Anglin is polling at 10 percent, and the sole Democratic candidate, Anita Earls, is pulling ahead with 40 percent in her favor.

Fewer voters are unsure about who they would vote for in the state Supreme Court race. In the September poll, 44 percent said they were unsure compared to 34 percent in the October poll.

Bryson said Earls is outraising her opponents, and the addition of a second Republican to the race is likely helping Earls. However, even if Anglin wasn’t in the race, Earls would still be ahead of Jackson.

Democratic candidates still lead in the generic ballot. If the election for the North Carolina General Assembly were held today, 44 percent would vote for the Democratic candidate compared to 39 percent who would vote for the Republican. In the September poll, 36 percent said they would pick the Republican candidate while 42 percent would pick the Democratic candidate.

As for the generic congressional ballot, 43 percent would vote Democratic and 39 percent would vote Republican. In the September poll, 38 percent said they would pick the Republican candidate while 45 percent would vote for the Democrat.

One of the most surprising finds, Bryson said, was an apparent shift by unaffiliated voters from favoring Democratic candidates to Republican candidates on the generic ballot for the legislature and Congress.

About 39 percent of unaffiliated voters would pick a Republican on the congressional ballot compared to 28.5 percent who would vote for the Democratic candidate. Around 13 percent would pick someone else, while 18.7 percent are undecided. It’s not enough to give the Republicans an edge, but it’s a shift from the previous poll. A similar picture emerges with unaffiliated voters and the generic state legislature ballot.

“What is interesting is unaffiliated voters are breaking for Republicans in this by plus 11,” Bryson said. “With such low numbers that means a lot of them are still very unsure. That could still break either way if they go out and vote.”

While Republicans have seen some improvements in the generic ballot polling, particularly with unaffiliated voters, President Donald Trump has seen a greater increase in approval of his job performance.

“The improvement for Republicans here is less substantial than the improvement for President Trump’s job approval,” Bryson said. “People are separating President Trump from congressional Republicans.”

Forty-eight percent of likely voters approve of the job Trump is doing as president, up 3 points from the September poll. In comparison, 47 percent disapprove of the president’s job. In September, 53 percent disapproved.

The Civitas poll also looked into whether the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh had any impact on voters’ opinions. Total approval for Kavanaugh’s confirmation was 46 percent, while 42 percent opposed. Those who were strongly opposed and strongly in favor of Kavanaugh’s confirmation split along party lines.

Roughly half those surveyed said the Kavanaugh hearing had no impact on their decision to go to the polls. Fifty-one percent said the hearing made no difference on their decision whether to vote, but 37 percent said it made them more likely to vote.

By a 14-point margin, registered Republicans were more likely than registered Democrats to say the Kavanaugh hearings increased their likelihood to vote, Bryson said.