Poll: Clinton, Trump virtually tied in North Carolina

Published 12:08 pm Tuesday, August 9, 2016

By Josh Bergeron


SALISBURY — Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are essentially tied in North Carolina, according to the latest survey from Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling.

Democratic nominee Clinton has a slim, 43-41-percent lead over Republican nominee Trump, according to Public Policy Polling. However, that lead falls within the margin of error.

Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson received 7 percent and Jill Stein received 2 percent of support in Public Policy Polling’s latest survey.

In a head-to-head competition, Clinton leads 47-to-46-percent.

“Hillary Clinton’s taken a small lead in North Carolina,” said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling. “That has more to do with Donald Trump than it does with her — every time he opens his mouth he just keeps getting even more and more unpopular than he already was.”

Most voters have a negative opinion of Clinton and Trump. However, Trump’s favorability rating has decreased in recent weeks, according to Public Policy Polling. The Raleigh-based polling group found that 58 percent of voters think of Trump unfavorably. By comparison, 55 percent of voters think of Clinton unfavorably.

As part of its survey, Public Policy Polling surveyed 830 likely voters from Aug. 5 to Aug. 7.

Catawba College Politics Professor Michael Bitzer said the latest numbers from Public Policy Polling fit the overall trend of a “coin-toss election” for president in North Carolina.

“The fundamental dynamics are forming in this state: strong partisan attachment on both sides, with the issue of unfavorable numbers of both candidates driving a lot of the public’s perceptions,” Bitzer said.

Last week, Trump was the topic of controversy for comments about a Gold Star family who lost their son while he was serving in Iraq.

The father of a solider who died while serving in the military, Khizir Khan, spoke during the 2016 Democratic National Convention and questioned whether Trump had read the Constitution. Khan also said Trump had “sacrificed nothing and no one.”

Trump responded by questioning whether Khan’s wife wasn’t allowed to speak because of her religion. He repeatedly criticized the family’s remarks on TV and on social media.

Public Policy Polling found that 40 percent of Trump supporters say his comments were appropriate and 22 percent say they were inappropriate. In a news release about its results, Public Policy Polling attributes the remarks to Trump supporters buying into everything he says.

“We’ve been writing for almost a year that there’s a cult-like aspect to Trump’s supporters, where they’ll go along with anything he says,” Public Policy Polling writes. “Trump made some of his most outlandish claims and statements yet last week, but we continue to find that few in his support base disavow them.”

Overall, 19 percent of those surveyed found Trump’s comments to be appropriate.

Bitzer said comments such as the attacks on the Khan family seem to reinforce Trump’s support with his base. Otherwise, Trump is hurt in the overall electorate with his controversial comments, Bitzer said.

Last week, Trump also accused the presidential election of being “rigged.” That claim received support among Trump supporters, but not in the overall survey group. A total of 69 percent of survey participants who identified as Trump supporters said the election is rigged if Clinton wins. By comparison, only 36 percent of the overall survey group said the election is rigged.

“This doesn’t bode well for after the election and any attempt to reconcile a badly divided nation, even if it is an electoral landslide against Trump,” Bitzer said about the rigged election polling results.

Public Policy Polling’s latest results represent the first time since March that Clinton has led Trump in North Carolina, which is seen as a battleground state and critical for Trump to become president.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.