Thom Tillis leads GOP primary field, new poll finds

Posted by John Frank on March 21, 2014 

A new poll shows Republican Thom Tillis with his biggest lead so far in the U.S. Senate race.

Tillis took 28 percent in a SurveyUSA poll of Republican primary voters conducted earlier this week for WRAL-TV, 13 points ahead of his next closest competitor.

His previous ceiling was 20 percent in a survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling in February. The SurveyUSA poll was conducted Monday through Wednesday, before the disclosure that Tillis exaggerated his education credentials.

The boost likely is attributed to Tillis being the only candidate on television with commercials. His second ad running now is biographical piece that touts his rise from paper boy to working for IBM but avoids mentioning his role as House speaker.

Cary obstetrician Greg Brannon took second with 15 percent in the poll and Heather Grant finished with 11 percent – within the plus-or-minus 5 percent margin of error. Charlotte pastor Mark Harris finished with 6 percent, well below the campaign’s disputed internal numbers.

About a quarter of GOP primary voters remain undecided, the poll found. If allocated proportionally, Tillis would get 36 percent, below the 40 percent threshold necessary to avoid a primary runoff, the pollsters found.

The write-up: “Tillis' support is older, wealthier, better educated, and concentrated in greater Greensboro. ... In a runoff: would Tillis face Brannon, whose support is disproportionately lower-income and concentrated in Southern and Coastal Carolina? Or would Tillis face Grant, whose support is disproportionately young, less educated, and concentrated in greater Raleigh? Or, might Brannon face Grant? The next six weeks till tell us.”

Other results from a poll of registered voters, with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.3 percent:

•  Democrat U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who the Republicans are vying to challenge, posted just 34 percent approval, one of her lowest numbers is recent polling. Another 54 percent disapprove with 12 percent undecided.

•  President Barack Obama’s approval was 39 percent with 54 percent disapproving.

•  Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s approval rating was 34 percent with 51 percent disapproving, a mark below his average numbers in other polls. Another 15 percent were unsure.

A question that polled adults in North Carolina, with a lower margin of error (2.2 percent), found three-quarters knew something about the Duke Energy coal ash spill into the Dan River. Of those familiar, 61 percent disapproved of the state’s response, while 23 percent approved.

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