The race for U.S. Senate in North Carolina has been way too close to call, in spite of the millions of dollars that both sides have already spent on TV commercials.
But a new poll – by a North Carolina firm that touts its proprietary methodology as a reliable mirror of the state’s voters – shows a trend that has Sen. Kay Hagan breaking away from Thom Tillis for now.
The American Insights survey, to be released Monday, gives Hagan a nine-point lead, at 43-34, among likely voters. Other recent polls have shown similar results but not as strong for Hagan.
American Insights debuted in February, as the first homegrown polling firm with a Republican slant.
“After being deadlocked for most of the year, the race has unmistakably shifted towards Senator Hagan in recent days,” director Pearce Godwin said in a statement accompanying the poll results. “This poll is a continuation and affirmation of the very recent trend in Sen. Hagan’s direction. But there is still a lot of time left on the clock, and we would not be surprised if this volatile race shifts back to a jump ball between now and November.”
Expect a stronger Tillis presence in TV advertising in the coming weeks. The Tillis campaign spent time last week soliciting campaign contributions in order to buy advertising to counter commercials hammering Tillis on education budget cuts. The campaign is banking on Hagan’s base support being locked in place without room to pick up new supporters, leaving independents and undecideds as potential Tillis voters.
• The American Insights poll also found Hagan leading among men, women and independent voters; while Tillis leads among white voters and native North Carolinians.
• The survey showed nearly two-thirds of voters who support Libertarian Sean Haugh, who scores at 5 percent, say they don’t like the other candidates or their parties. But 82 percent of Haugh’s supporters would consider voting for someone else in November.
The polling firm charted Hagan and Tillis trading leads within the margin of error since January, except when Hagan opened a six-point lead in July, only to deadlock in August. The last four polls released in the past 10 days, including this one, show Hagan’s lead ranging from 3 to 9 points. All were conducted after the first debate between the top two candidates.
Here’s where the American Insights pollsters cast the survey in a promising light for Tillis:
Hagan’s level of support has remained consistent instead of increasing. An incumbent’s level of support is a better indicator than the point spread, because undecided voters have been known to swing the outcome for challengers on Election Day.
But, the firm says, Tillis needs to stay within striking distance in order to benefit from a late tide of undecided.
• Thirty-one percent consider their vote a vote for Congress against President Barack Obama, 21 percent consider it a vote for Obama, and 42 percent don’t consider Obama a factor.
• Thirty-eight percent would trust Tillis over Hagan to run their business, while 36 percent would trust Hagan more. In its February poll, the firm found voters valued business experience in a senator more than any other field.
The poll surveyed 600 registered voters between Sept. 5 and 10, and determined 459 to be likely voters based on their answers to four turnout questions. The margin of error is 4 percent for registered voters and 4.6 percent for likely voters. Responses include landline, cell phone and online panel.
Many more details are available at AmericanInsights.org.