Polls: Hagan leads statewide, but trails in 704 area code

Published 2:28 am Tuesday, October 21, 2014

North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race may be close statewide, but locally it’s exactly the opposite, according to the latest numbers released by Raleigh-based group Public Policy Polling.

The poll found that Hagan maintained a slim lead statewide for the third-straight month with 46 percent compared to Thom Tillis’ 43 percent. Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh received 5 percent of votes in the poll. Hagan’s slim lead falls within the 3.5 margin of error for the survey, which interviewed 780 voters from Oct. 16 to 18th.

Catawba provost and political science Professor Dr. Michael Bitzer said the fact that the results are within a margin of error means it’s important for candidates to recruit supporters to show up and vote.

“It’s a dead heat, coin-toss kind of contest,” Bitzer said.

In the 704 area code, responses were wildly different, with 52 percent of respondents choosing Tillis, compared to Hagan’s 37 percent.

Both Rowan Republican Party chairman John Leatherman and Democrat Party chairman Geoffrey Hoy said the polling numbers seemed relatively accurate when compared with real-world encounters.

“I may be traveling around in too small of a circle of people, but everyone seems to like Tillis,” Leatherman said. “I think the only people that vote for Hagan in our area will be Yellow Dog Democrats.”

Bitzer said pulling out individual area codes for analysis increases the margin of error, but it’s unsurprising that Tillis would lead in the 704 area code.

“Charlotte is his hometown and should be his base of support,” Bitzer said. “If Tillis wasn’t leading in this region, then we would expect to see Hagan up by more.”

Bitzer also said he expects Rowan County to heavily favor Tillis on election night.

The Real Clear Politics average of all polls show a slight lead for Hagan. Hagan’s lead in the RCP average also falls within the margin of error.

The Public Policy Polling results also ranked the favorability of both Hagan and Tillis. Similarly to other results, Hagan’s approval rating statewide was a few points above Tillis. In the 704 area code, Tillis had a slight advantage in his approval rating at 42 percent compared to Hagan’s 37 percent.

Leatherman joked that only voters without a TV would have missed Hagan and Tillis campaign ads, many of which have been negative.

Bitzer said there’s multiple theories about how attack ads influence an elections, but described two theories that he favors.

“I tend to lean to the idea that negative ads have two effects: one is to irritate the partisans whose candidate is getting attacked, and may generate mobilization and energy when the attacker doesn’t want to do so,” he said. “Second, the folks who are not as intensely partisan will be turned off by all sides attacking each other. While some negative ads are actually more ‘comparison/contrast’ in nature, the negativism does come through; the fact of which kind of voter hears, or is even listening by this point, is what makes negative ads work or not.”

The poll interviewed 80 percent of voters via phone and 20 percent via internet. Of all the poll’s participants interviewed via phone, 704 area code residents were the third highest in number of respondents at 16 percent of the total. The 336 area code was first at 19 percent.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.