COVID-19 AND ELECTIONS: Presidential, Senate races dead heats while Cooper rides Coronavirus wave to lead

May 26, 2020

Last week on the blog, we looked at polling numbers on the impact of COVID-19 shutdown on North Carolinians’ health and livelihoods and how our citizens viewed the short and long term effect of the Coronavirus on our state’s economy.

Today, we examine the status of elections in North Carolina to see if COVID-19 has had an impact.

When asked “how do you plan to vote in the November elections? Are you mostly likely to cast your ballot in the election by voting at an in person early voting location, requesting and returning a mail-in absentee ballot, or will you vote at the polls on Election Day?”, 51% said they would vote at the polls, 33% said they would vote early in person, while only 11% said they would vote absentee by mail.

With the exception of Governor Cooper, North Carolinians do not hold positive views of the major political figures on the ballot this fall.  The challengers to the incumbents running for Governor and U.S. Senate are generally viewed positively but are relative unknowns compared to the incumbents.

Both President Trump and Governor Cooper get better marks for their handling of the Coronavirus Outbreak than they do overall.  But there is a big difference in how North Carolinians view the job President Trump and Governor Cooper are doing handling the Coronavirus Outbreak.  As we observed last week, the easy phase of managing the Coronavirus Outbreak is over for Governor Cooper, who faces a divided public as he begins to confront a series of shutdown decisions fraught with political risk.

Finally, there are the election ballot tests.  With one exception, the Coronavirus Outbreak doesn’t appear to have changed a thing in the deep purple politics of North Carolina – the major elections look evenly divided and headed for close finishes. We asked voters “If the election for President were held today, for whom would you vote between Donald Trump and Joe Biden?” It was a dead heat – 45%-45%.  It was virtually a dead heat for U.S. Senate, as well: Tillis 42% – Cunningham 43%.  For generic North Carolina General Assembly candidates, it was another dead heat between the Republicans and Democrats at 43%-43%.

The story for Governor is different. Roy Cooper, who is riding sky high approval ratings for his handling of coronavirus, was well ahead of Lt. Governor Dan Forest in his race for re-election: 55%-37%. 

Our observation is that with the exception of the Governor’s race even the seismic nature of a global pandemic can’t change the underlying electoral dynamics of one of our country’s most politically competitive and deeply divided states.  Once again, North Carolina will be one of the major election battlegrounds this November.

See the complete topline here and crosstabs here.