Confirming North Carolina’s status as a battleground state, the latest survey of likely voters in the state by the Elon University Poll found Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton are virtually tied for the lead with less than two months to go until Election Day. Trump has a 44-43 percent advantage among likely voters in the state, a lead that falls within the poll’s margin of error, with 6 percent of voters backing Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
Most voters feel Trump would be better for rich people, white people and men, while most believe Clinton would be better for poor people, women and minorities. Neither candidate fared well when asked how they stacked up against previous presidential candidates from their parties, with a majority saying both are worse than usual.
“This election is so tight right now, that small swings of a few points should be expected between now and November,” said Jason Husser, assistant professor of political science at Elon and director of the Elon University Poll. “North Carolina has been extremely important over the last several election cycles with very tight election outcomes. These numbers suggest that will continue to be the case, and both campaigns would do well to continue to focus on the Old North State.”
Exploring other opinions within the presidential contest, the poll found that voters familiar with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan who think the past is better than today were most likely to say that the decade of the 1980s was better overall.
Also, while Trump has praised the leadership qualities of Russian President Vladimir Putin, 60 percent of likely voters said President Obama is doing a better job leading his country than Putin is doing leading his.
The health of the candidates, which has been elevated into a campaign issue in recent weeks, continues to be on the minds of likely voters, with more voters concerned about the impact of Clinton’s health on her ability to serve as president than Trump’s, according to the poll. However, nearly half of voters say neither candidate has released enough information about their health at this point in the campaign.
The live-caller, dual frame (landline and cell phone) survey of 799 registered voters was conducted from Sept. 12-16, 2016. Of those respondents, 644 are likely voters in the November election. Survey results in this news release present responses from those self-identified registered voters who say they are likely to vote in the Nov. 8 election and has a margin of error of +/- 3.86 points.
TRUMP VS. CLINTON
A closer look at the results in the presidential contest reveals a strong divide in voter preferences along racial lines. Among black voters in North Carolina, 98 percent say they plan to vote for Clinton while just 2 percent plan to pick Trump, when the two are compared head-to-head. Nearly two-thirds of white voters — 65 percent — plan to vote for Trump, while 35 percent say they will pick Clinton.
“Republican strategists have long known that they need to tighten the racial gaps between the parties,” Husser said. “However, we don’t see that happening with African-American voters in North Carolina. Just 2 percent of likely black voters we talked to plan to vote for Donald Trump.”
Trump is attracting more male voters, with 55 percent of men picking Trump, and Clinton maintains an edge with women voters, who prefer her to Trump by a 53-47 margin.
Those affiliated with both major parties appear to be aligning behind their party’s nominee, with Trump attracting 94 percent of Republicans and Clinton garnering support from 92 percent of Democrats. But among self-identified independent voters, Trump holds a sizable advantage, with 65 percent of those voters choosing Trump.
Trump is also generating support from those who sat out the last presidential election. Among those who did not vote in 2012, 78 percent say they plan to vote for Trump this year.
Following multiple polls showing high disapproval ratings for both Trump and Clinton, the Elon Poll found that despite their preferences, a majority of voters say this year’s candidates are worse than those on the ballot in previous years. Among likely voters, 62 percent said Trump was worse than Republican candidates in years past, and 51 percent said Clinton was worse than past Democratic candidates.
According to Husser, in a contest this close, the segment of voters still making up their minds has the potential to tip the election one way or the other and third-party candidates that experience a late surge can influence the final tally. In North Carolina, leading third-party candidate Gary Johnson, a Libertarian, is the preference of 6 percent of voters, while 5.8 percent of voters say they are undecided or don’t know who they will vote for in the presidential race this fall. Another 1.1 percent of voters say they prefer another third-party candidate or refused to say who they will vote for.
If elected president this year, Hillary Clinton will make history as the first female president of the United States, but that fact doesn’t seem to be having much of an impact on the race, the Elon Poll has found. Asked whether they were more or less likely to vote for Clinton because she would be the first female president, the vast majority of voters — 87 percent — said that makes no difference in their decision.
Q: Are you more or less likely to vote for Hillary Clinton because she would be the first female president in American history, or does it not make much difference to you either way?
– More likely: 8.4 percent
– Less likely: 3 percent
– No difference: 87.3 percent
A GREAT DECADE FOR AMERICA?
On hats, T-shirts and in speeches, Trump has been consistently pushing the theme that his election is a step toward “making America great again.” So the Elon University Poll asked — considering American culture, do you think there was a better time in the past than today, and if so, when was it?
Nearly two-thirds of voters — 63 percent — said there is some decade in the past that tops the one in which we now live, while 31 percent said past decades don’t top today.
Q: Over the course of the presidential campaign, you may have heard Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Thinking about American culture, do you think there was a better time in the past than today?
– Yes: 62.8 percent
– No: 30.5 percent
– Don’t know: 5.9 percent
Among those seeing greatness in past decades, the 1980s was the most popular period, with 35 percent saying that decade was better than today. The 1990s came in second as the choice of 16 percent of voters, and the 1950s ranked third, with 14 percent of voters selecting that period.
The state of the economy during a past decade was the most common reason given when voters were asked why things were better in years past. Trump voters were more likely to cite “morals” as a reason why a past period was better, while Clinton voters were more likely to say “unity” made a past decade better.
“Democrats and Republicans are so polarized that even their views of the past are divided,” Husser said.
Looking at the decades voters said were better than today, the state of the economy and the leadership of President Ronald Reagan were top reasons given for picking the 1980s. For another popular decade, the 1950s, morals was the top reason given, followed by the economy and unity.
Black voters were more likely than white voters to say today is better than previous decades, with 45 percent selecting our current time rather than some time in the past, compared to 28 percent of white voters. Of those black voters who did prefer a time in the past, only 7 percent picked a time before the 1980s.
BETTER LEADER: PUTIN OR OBAMA?
Trump voters nearly unanimously disapproved of the job that President Barack Obama is doing as president, and Clinton voters offered their approval of Obama by nearly the same margin. But how do the leadership qualities of Obama stack up against another world leader — Russian President Vladimir Putin?
When asked who is a better leader, 59.5 percent of voters said Obama, while 23 percent said Putin, with 18 percent either saying they don’t know or refusing to answer.
Q: Who do you think is a better leader: Barack Obama, president of the United States, or Vladimir Putin, president of Russia?
– Obama: 59.5 percent
– Putin: 22.8 percent
– Don’t know: 13.7 percent
THE QUESTION OF HEALTH
Recent weeks have seen the health of the two candidates for president come to the forefront as an issue. The Elon Poll found that voters are less concerned with the health of 70-year-old Donald Trump than the health of 68-year-old Hillary Clinton.
About Clinton, who recently recovered from a bout with pneumonia, 56 percent of likely voters said they believe she will be physically healthy enough to serve as president, while 32 percent said she won’t be. That compares to 77 percent who say Trump will be healthy enough to serve as president and 11 percent who said he won’t be.
But close to half of likely voters say neither candidate has disclosed enough information about their health. 47 percent of voters say Clinton has not disclosed enough information about her health, and 45 percent said Trump hasn’t disclosed enough health information.
Elon University Poll
Conducted in the fall and spring of every academic year, the Elon University Poll was started in 2000 and is fully funded by Elon University as a public service to citizens. It is a neutral, independent operation that does not do contract work. The poll uses live, trained interviewers operating in a computer-assisted telephone lab on campus.