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Elon Poll: Hagan leads Tillis with wide gender gap among likely voters

Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan holds a small edge in a bid to retain her seat this fall against challenger Thom Tillis, speaker of North Carolina's House of Representatives and one of the state's most powerful Republican leaders.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan has opened a four-point lead over her challenger in the November elections, according to the latest Elon University Poll.

Hagan leads Thom Tillis, the Republican speaker of North Carolina’s House of Representatives, by a 45-41 margin among likely voters. Nine percent of likely voters said they plan to support another candidate, and 5 percent are undecided on their vote.

Hagan’s current lead comes even as a majority of likely voters – 51 percent – disapprove of the way the first-term senator is handling her job. Yet likely voters hold an even stronger distaste for the legislative body Tillis helps lead, with 54 percent disapproving of the way the North Carolina General Assembly operates.  

The live-caller, dual frame (landline and cell phone) survey polled 1,078 residents of North Carolina. Of those residents, 983 said they were registered to vote, and 629 were identified as likely voters. The survey was conducted Sept. 5-9, 2014, and has a margin of error of 3.91 percentage points for likely voters.

“With the midterm elections less than two months away, Hagan seems to have a small lead among likely voters,” said Assistant Professor Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon University Poll. “But that lead is within the margin of error.”


Both candidates draw strong support from members of their own base with less than 10 percent of self-identified Republicans and Democrats breaking ranks on support of their party’s nominee.

Differences also arise by sex and race. Women offer higher levels of support (52%-33%) favoring Hagan, notably among the single and divorced, while men support Tillis (50%-38%) with the greatest level of support among those who are married.

Eighty-five percent of African-American likely voters said they plan to vote for Hagan. Fifty-one percent of whites support Tillis.

“National polls have suggested the gender gap in voting is narrowing,” said Assistant Professor Jason Husser, assistant director of the Elon University Poll. “That isn’t the case in North Carolina where Hagan has a 19-point advantage with women, and Tillis is strongly favored by men.”


Support for President Barack Obama is eroding in North Carolina. A majority of likely voters (54 percent) disapprove of his job handling with just 38 percent offering approval for his performance. The president fares better than overall approval for Congress where only 10 percent of likely voters approve of the way the federal legislative body is handling its own responsibilities.

Locally, support for North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is almost evenly split among likely voters. Forty-three percent approve of McCrory’s job performance, which was just a point lower than the 44 percent who disapprove. Twelve percent didn’t know how they felt about the governor.

“Elections are not just about candidates, they are about issues,” Fernandez said. “Tillis and Hagan supporters are deeply divided over a number of issues including education, voter identification, abortion, Obamacare, and foreign policy. Voter turnout in November is going to be driven by these issues.”

North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race is on track to be one of the most expensive in the country with $22.4 million spent by both sides on television advertising alone. By the end of the campaign, a total of 48,700 ads will have been televised, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

This does not include Internet campaigns, direct mail, telemarketing or radio, which will be millions of dollars more. 


The Elon University Poll asked likely voters about a variety of public policy issues making headlines in recent months:

Do you support of oppose gay marriage?
Support: 45 percent
Oppose: 43 percent
Don’t Know / No Opinion: 12 percent

Support for gay marriage has picked up 4 percentage points since a spring poll and opposition has dropped 3 percentage points. It is the first time that Elon University Poll has found support for gay marriage to be greater than opposition, though it is within the margin of error.

Please indicate which statement comes closest to your own view, even if neither is exactly right. 1.) Immigrants today are a benefit to North Carolina because of their hard work and job skills; or 2.) Immigrants today are a burden to North Carolina because they use public services.
Benefit: 50 percent
Burden: 37 percent
Don’t Know: 12 percent

Recently, North Carolina passed a law requiring voters to show some sort of government-approved photo identification before they are allowed to vote. Do you support or oppose this law?
Support: 68 percent
Oppose: 29 percent
Don’t Know / No Opinion: 3 percent

In the long run, how do you think the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, will affect the healthcare situation in North Carolina as a whole? Will it make things better, not make much difference, or will it make things worse?
Make Things Better: 35 percent
Not Make Much Difference: 11 percent
Make Things Worse: 49 percent
Don’t Know: 6 percent

‚ÄčNorth Carolina's thinking on Obamacare coincides with national polling that shows the Affordable Care Act is perceived more negatively than positively. The Kaiser Health Tracking Poll for September found 47 percent of Americans had an unfavorable view of the Affordable Care Act, and 35 percent had a positive view.

Do you think state laws in North Carolina should make access to an abortion more difficult or less difficult? 
More Difficult: 39 percent
Less Difficult: 45 percent
Don’t Know: 14 percent

Eric Townsend,
9/15/2014 7:50 AM