WASHINGTON — Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by 7 points in the key swing state of North Carolina, according to a new NBC News/Marist poll, with voters also favoring Democratic Senate and gubernatorial candidates and saying by 2 to 1 that the state was right to balk at the Trump administration's Charlotte convention plans over concerns about coronavirus safety protocols.
Among registered voters, Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, got the support of 51 percent, compared with 44 percent who backed Trump. In March, Biden had a 4-point advantage in a head-to-head matchup, 49 percent to 45 percent.
Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham leads GOP Sen. Thom Tillis by 9 points, with the backing of 50 percent of voters, compared to Tillis' 41 percent.
And Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who spent much of the spring in a dispute with the Trump administration over its efforts to hold the in-person Republican National Convention in Charlotte despite the pandemic, easily led his Republican challenger, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, 58 percent to 38 percent.
Cooper, who recently paused the state's reopening plan and issued a statewide mask mandate in response to the rising number of coronavirus cases, had a positive approval rating from 59 percent of voters, compared with 35 percent who disapproved.
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Meanwhile, Trump's job approval rating among North Carolina voters stood at just 41 percent, with a majority — 55 percent — disapproving. That's a net drop of 11 points since March, when 45 percent approved and 48 percent disapproved.
And just 32 percent of North Carolina voters say state leaders were wrong to insist on safety protocols for the convention. Republican officials ultimately dismissed the protocols as too strict and moved the president's nomination speech to Jacksonville, Florida. Six in 10 agreed that "the state was right to prioritize its health protocols for large gatherings over the objections of the president."
The Jacksonville event would also be canceled. The poll was conducted July 14-22, before the president announced the cancellation late Thursday because of logistical and safety concerns.
Trump still leads on the economy; Biden has big leads on coronavirus, race relations
In a head-to-head contest, Biden leads among independents (49 percent to 41 percent), Black voters (86 percent to 8 percent), women (58 percent to 37 percent) and voters who dislike both major candidates (52 percent to 27 percent).
Trump maintains an advantage among white voters (54 percent to 42 percent), men (52 percent to 43 percent) and white voters without college degrees (69 percent to 28 percent).
Mirroring national polls, Trump also has an edge in the intensity of his support. Seventy-five percent of Trump voters in North Carolina say they strongly support him, while 64 percent of Biden voters say the same about their candidate.
Voters also still chose Trump over Biden when it comes to economic issues, with 52 percent saying Trump is the candidate better equipped to handle the economy, compared with 39 percent who chose Biden.
But in dealing with race relations, just 31 percent said Trump is the better candidate, while 53 percent chose Biden.
Trump had a similar deficit when voters are asked who would better handle the coronavirus, with just 34 percent selecting him, compared with 51 percent who chose Biden.
Overall, about half of voters in North Carolina — 48 percent — say the pandemic is getting worse in the state. Just 14 percent say it is getting better, while 36 percent say it is staying about the same.
The share who say the pandemic is getting worse includes 66 percent of Biden voters but just 28 percent of Trump voters.
"Biden is in good shape in North Carolina as long as the coronavirus or race relations is top of mind," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. "His downside is if focus shifts to the economy, where Trump has the advantage."
What the poll's sample looks like
As Marist works to ensure that harder-to-reach voters are included in its samples, 20 percent of this poll's sample of registered voters live in the Raleigh-Durham area, 16 percent are from the Charlotte area, 25 percent are from the eastern part of the state, 21 percent are from the Piedmont region, and 17 percent come from the western part of the state.
Among registered voters, 19 percent live in major cities, 19 percent live in small cities, 14 percent are suburban dwellers, 28 percent are from small towns, and 20 percent are rural voters.
Thirty-five percent identified as Democrats, 29 percent as Republicans and 36 percent as independents.
Thirty-eight percent of voters were white voters without college degrees, while 30 percent were white voters with college degrees.
The NBC News/Marist poll of North Carolina of 1,067 adults, which was conducted July 14-22, has a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points. The margin of error among the 882 registered voters the poll surveyed is +/- 4.0 percentage points.