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Poll: Biden leads Trump by six in North Carolina

Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham holds a 10 point advantage despite a recent scandal, according to a new NBC News/Marist poll.
Image: Joe Biden
Joe Biden speaks at the Black Economic Summit in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 23, 2020.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden holds a modest six-point lead with likely voters over President Donald Trump in the hard-fought swing state of North Carolina, a new NBC/Marist poll shows.

Among likely voters, Biden’s support stands at 52 percent, compared to 46 percent for the incumbent president. (Among all registered voters in the state, the former vice president’s lead is similar, at 51 percent to Trump’s 46 percent.)

Biden’s edge is within the poll’s margin of error of +/-4.7 percentage points for likely voters and +/-4.1 percentage points for registered voters. (A +/-4.7 margin of error means that pollsters believe each candidate’s actual vote percentage could be as much as 4.7 percentage points higher or lower).

The poll also shows a 10-point advantage for Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham, who hopes to oust first-term GOP incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis.

Cunningham gets the support of 53 percent of likely voters, while Tillis gets 43 percent — an advantage outside the margin of error — despite Cunningham facing an infidelity scandal which had threatened to upend the race. Cunningham’s lead is identical among registered voters.

And incumbent Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper — who also enjoys a 60 percent job approval rating — easily leads Republican challenger Dan Forest, 59 percent to 40 percent among likely voters.

The positive news for Democrats comes as likely voters in the state give the president a lackluster job approval rating. Forty-four percent approve of the job he’s doing as president, while 52 percent disapprove.

Biden is also viewed more favorably than Trump in the state. Half of likely voters — 50 percent — view him favorably, while 46 percent do not, for a net score of +4. For Trump, 43 percent have a favorable impression of him, while 54 percent do not, for a net score of -11.

Biden flips the 2016 script with white college-educated voters

Biden’s edge in a state Trump won by about four points in 2016 is fueled by advantages among college-educated voters as well as suburban dwellers, women and independents.

Among all North Carolina college-educated likely voters, he leads 61 percent to 37 percent. Among only white college-educated voters, a group Trump won by double digits in North Carolina four years ago, Biden leads 61 percent to 38 percent.

Biden is also running ahead with independents (52 percent to 43 percent), suburban voters (60 percent to 38 percent), women (60 percent to 38 percent), Black voters (89 percent to 9 percent), and voters under 45 (59 percent to 36 percent).

Trump leads among white voters (56 percent to 42 percent), whites without a college degree (70 percent to 28 percent), and men (55 percent to 42 percent).

Among seniors, a group that has been hotly contested, the two men are essentially tied, 50 percent for Trump and 49 percent for Biden.

The president also maintains an enthusiasm advantage that’s mirrored in national polling. More than eight-in-ten — 83 percent — of his supporters say they back him strongly, compared to 72 percent of Biden’s voters.

As national polling has also shown, Biden’s supporters are dramatically more likely to vote before Election Day.

Of those saying they have already voted by mail or plan to do so, Biden leads 76 percent to 19 percent. Of those voting in person at an early vote location, 52 percent back Biden and 46 percent back Trump. But among those who plan to vote in person on Election Day, the president leads by more than 2-1, 67 percent to 30 percent.

Cunningham leads among those who have already voted by 21 points

In the state’s closely watched Senate race, Cunningham’s advantages largely mirror Biden’s. He leads among women (62 percent to 34 percent), white college graduates (61 percent to 37 percent), suburban voters (63 percent to 34 percent) and independents (56 percent to 38 percent).

Those leads come despite the early October revelation that Cunningham had exchanged texts of a sexual nature with a women who is not his wife.

Mail voting started in North Carolina on September 4, nearly a month before the Cunningham scandal broke.

Among those who have already voted, Cunningham holds a 60 percent to 39 percent lead over the GOP incumbent.

But among those who have yet to cast their ballot, 41 percent support Cunningham and 52 percent back Tillis.

What the poll’s sample looks like

As Marist works to ensure that harder-to-reach voters are included in its samples, 21 percent of the likely voters sampled came from the Raleigh-Durham area, 17 percent came from the Charlotte area, 21 percent came from the Piedmont/central area of the state, and 18 percent came from the western part of the state.

Thirty-three percent of likely voters identified as Democrats, 30 percent identified as Republicans and 34 percent identified as independents.

The sample was made up of 40 percent college graduates and 60 percent who do not have a college degree.

The NBC/Marist live-caller poll surveyed 1,135 adults in North Carolina from October 25-28, 2020. That includes 1,049 registered voters, for a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points. The likely voter sample was made up of 800 respondents and has a margin of error of +4.7 percentage points.