The polling results from the conservative Civitas Institute that came out Friday favoring key Democratic candidates surprised many but, as the poll sponsors say, it’s still a long way to November.
The main takeaway was Attorney General Roy Cooper with a 10-point lead over Gov. Pat McCrory, the first poll that has shown a significant lead for either candidate.
There was also a strong showing by Raleigh Democrats.
The poll put Josh Stein, a Democrat from Raleigh, leading state Sen. Buck Newton, a Republican from Wilson, 37 to 32 percent for attorney general; Dan Blue III, Raleigh Democrat, leading Dale Folwell, Republican from Winston-Salem, 39-27 percent for state treasurer; and Deborah Ross, Raleigh Democrat, trailing veteran incumbent U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, Republican from Winston-Salem, by only two points.
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But these snapshots of the campaigns are limited by their inability to anticipate what might happen between now and November.
“It should go without saying, but it is only April, November is a lifetime away in political time, and the legislature just started its short session,” Civitas President Francis De Luca said in a statement accompanying the poll. “As the turbulence in this election cycle continues, I expect to see more swings in voters’ attitudes.”
Still, the poll follows weeks of backlash against the legislature and McCrory enacting a law that rolled back anti-discrimination protections for gay and transgender people. A full 85 percent of respondents said they had heard or read a great deal or some about the controversy.
Those surveyed favored the law 61-29 percent, although they were asked to respond to pointed and somewhat convoluted questions about the issue.
McCrory has been the most public recipient of criticism over HB2, while Cooper has laid relatively low so far this year. That is expected to change as both candidates cover more of the state.
The poll was of 600 likely voters — making it a more accurate predictor than some other recent polls — with 30 percent of the interviews conducted on cell phones. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points, and the poll was taken April 23-25.
Here are some other highlights:
▪ Cooper not only lead McCrory 46-36 percent, but the governor’s unfavorable rating put him underwater for the first time: 39 percent favorable to 49 percent unfavorable.
Cooper’s favorable rating was 35 percent and his unfavorable 20 percent.
▪ Stein, a former state senator, leads Newton 37-32 percent, but 30 percent are undecided or lean toward one candiate or the other.
▪ Similarly in the treasurer race, Blue, son of Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue, leads Folwell, a former state representative, 39-27 percent; with 33 percent leaning or undecided.
▪ In the U.S. Senate race, Burr leads Ross, a former representative, 37-35 percent; 21 percent are leaning or undecided, and Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh drew 6 percent.