Get in Touch

ECU Poll: Biden leads Trump by three points among likely voters in North Carolina; Senate election remains a toss-up; Cooper ahead of Forest by nine points; other statewide contests show small leads for Robinson, Stein, and Folwell.

The latest ECU Poll, conducted October 15-18, shows former Vice President Joe Biden with a 50% to 47% advantage over President Donald Trump among likely voters in North Carolina. This result nearly mirrors the four-point lead Biden held over Trump in a previous ECU poll taken in early October. Currently, only 1% of the poll respondents reported they are undecided, with another 1% reporting that they intend to vote for another candidate.

Biden’s small lead over Trump comes from gains made among suburban voters relative to Hillary Clinton’s performance in 2016. Exit poll results in North Carolina from the 2016 election showed Trump with a 60% to 36% advantage over Clinton among suburban voters. However, four years later, our poll results show Biden and Trump tied at 49% in the North Carolina suburbs. Among women in the suburbs, Biden leads Trump, 54% to 43%.

Trump holds a 57% to 39% lead over Biden among poll respondents who live in rural areas – a margin nearly identical to the large advantage he held over Clinton in 2016 (58% to 39%). Likewise, the poll results of those who live in urban areas roughly match those from the exit poll results in 2016, with Biden leading Trump 59% to 39%.

Biden also has made gains among voters with a four-year college degree or higher when compared to Clinton’s totals in 2016. Among all respondents with a four-year college degree or higher, Biden leads Trump 55% to 43%. Four years ago, Clinton edged Trump by only one point among North Carolina voters with a four-year college degree. In Trump’s favor, he continues to hold a large advantage among white voters without a four-year college degree (or what some label white “working class” voters), 65% to 32% – an advantage similar to four years ago when he carried white working-class voters by a 69% to 25% margin.

While Trump trails Biden overall, he does hold an “excitement” advantage. Nearly three out of four Trump supporters (74%) are “very excited” to vote (or to have voted). By comparison, 65% of Biden supporters fall into the “very excited” category.

Much like the presidential election, North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race continues to remain very competitive. Democrat Cal Cunningham leads Republican Thom Tillis by a single point, 48% to 47%. The results show 3% undecided (with the remainder indicating support for a candidate other than Tillis or Cunningham). The previous ECU Poll showed Tillis leading Cunningham by one point, 46% to 45%. In ECU's September poll, the race was tied at 44%.

In the race for governor, Democrat Roy Cooper holds a nine point advantage over Republican challenger Dan Forest, 53% to 44% (with 2% undecided and 1% indicating support for some other candidate). This lead is slightly narrower than our previous ECU Poll, which put the governor ahead by thirteen percentage points over Forest. Cooper continues to maintain more positive than negative evaluations for his work as governor. Approximately 53% of likely voters approve of the governor’s overall job performance compared to 38% who disapprove (with the remaining 10% not sure). These approval numbers for Cooper are virtually unchanged since our last ECU Poll in early October.

Turning to the race for Lieutenant Governor, Republican Mark Robinson leads Yvonne Lewis Holley 47% to 42%. (The race was tied in the previous early October poll.) In the election for Treasurer, Republican Dale Folwell leads Democrat Ronnie Chatterji 47% to 43%, while in the race for Attorney General, Democrat Josh Stein leads Republican Jim O’Neill, 49% to 44%.

According to Dr. Peter Francia, Director of the ECU Center for Survey Research, the latest poll results point to some crucial factors to consider heading into the final weeks of the 2020 election. “The Biden campaign is significantly outperforming what the Clinton campaign did in 2016 in the North Carolina suburbs. In particular, Biden is winning over suburban women. If Biden can maintain the current level of support that he has in the suburbs, then he has a strong shot at winning North Carolina.” Francia, however, adds that Trump’s “excitement” advantage is worth noting. “In an extremely competitive election, voter turnout is often the decisive factor. Trump supporters are more excited than Biden supporters. That excitement advantage could well translate into a voter turnout advantage. If so, Republican candidates, from the top to the bottom of the ballot, could win in these hyper-competitive races.”  

Methodology

This poll was conducted October 15-18, 2020. The sample consisted of 1,155 likely voters in North Carolina, with a Credibility Interval (CI), similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 3.4 percentage points. It is important to remember that subsets based on gender, education, race, and region have higher margins of error, as the sample size is reduced. The data were weighted by age, education, race, gender, region, mode, and 2016 election modeling. Data were collected using both an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines only (n=707) and an online panel provided by Lucid (n=448).

 

Key Takeaways
  • 2020 Election: In North Carolina, former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump, 50% to 47% among likely voters; Cal Cunningham leads Senator Thom Tillis, 48% to 47%; Governor Roy Cooper leads Dan Forest, 53% to 44%.
  • The Suburbs: Among suburban voters in North Carolina, Biden and Trump are tied at 49%. This marks a departure from four years ago when the 2016 exit poll showed Trump with a 60% to 36% advantage over Clinton among suburban voters in North Carolina. Biden leads Trump among women in the suburbs, 54% to 43%. Trump holds a commanding lead among rural voters, 57% to 39%.
  • Other Statewide Races: Republican Mark Robinson leads Democrat Yvonne Lewis Holley 47% to 42% for Lieutenant Governor; Democrat Josh Stein leads Republican Jim O’Neill 49% to 44% for Attorney General; Republican Dale Folwell leads Democrat Ronnie Chatterji 47% to 43% for Treasurer.
Files
Quotes
The Biden campaign is significantly outperforming what the Clinton campaign did in 2016 in the North Carolina suburbs. In particular, Biden is winn...
Peter FranciaDirector, ECU Center for Survey Research
Trump supporters are more excited than Biden supporters. That excitement advantage could well translate into a voter turnout advantage. If so, Repu...
Peter FranciaDirector, ECU Center for Survey Research
Related Bios
Peter Francia, Ph.D
Director of the Center for Survey Research
View Full Bio>>
Jonathan Morris, Ph.D.
Senior Polling Scientist
View Full Bio>>
Contacts
Peter Francia
franciap@ecu.edu
252-328-6126
Jonathan Morris
morrisj@ecu.edu
252-328-1067