Hagan maintains lead in final stretch of U.S. Senate race

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY, METHODOLOGY & CROSSTABS

Incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan holds a steady lead over her Republican challenger with Election Day just days away, according to the latest Elon University Poll.

Hagan has solidified a 45-41 margin against Rep. Thom Tillis, the speaker of North Carolina's House of Representatives, since the Elon University Poll found the same numbers in early September. Another 6 percent of likely voters plan to support another candidate, while 7 percent remain undecided.

Hagan's strongest support is among women and those likely voters under 30, and she maintains an edge among true independents.

The live-caller, dual frame (landline and cell phone) survey of 687 likely voters was conducted Oct. 21-25, 2014, and has a margin of error of 3.74 percentage points.

SUPPORT BY PARTY, GENDER and RACE

Both candidates draw strong support from members of their own base with less than 10 percent of self-identified Republicans and Democrats breaking rank on support of their party's nominee. However, self-described independents with no party leanings are beginning to make up their minds. Thirty-two percent of likely voters who call themselves independent plan to vote for Hagan - a drop of 6 percentage points since last month - while support for Tillis among independent likely voters remains steady at 27 percent.

Seventeen percent of independents said they plan to vote for someone else and 17 percent don't know which candidate they plan to support.

Differences by sex and race have remained constant since September. Women offer higher levels of support (52%-34%) favoring Hagan, while men support Tillis (48%-38%). Eighty-one percent of African-American likely voters said they plan to vote for Hagan. Fifty-one percent of whites support Tillis.

"Tillis has gained little ground with women as a sizable gender gap still remains between the two candidates," said Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon University Poll.

GAY MARRIAGE, the ISLAMIC STATE, EBOLA & OTHER PUBLIC POLICY ISSUES

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

Do you support or oppose gay/same-sex marriage?
Support: 39 percent
Oppose: 50 percent
Don't know: 11 percent

Opposition to same-sex marriage saw a 7-point increase in the past month, while support has dropped by 6 percentage points.

"Attitudes on many issues have remained quite stable since the Elon Poll's last survey in September, but support for gay marriage is the major exception," Fernandez said. "This is likely a response to a court ruling that has opened the door to same-sex marriages in the state."

Thinking about the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS, should U.S. military action against ISIS be limited to only air strikes, should it include both air strikes and American combat troops on the ground, or should U.S. military action not be taken at all?
Air strikes only: 33 percent
Air strikes & ground troops: 43 percent
No military action: 15 percent
Don't know: 9 percent

"International issues continue to play an important role in the race for U.S. Senate in North Carolina," said Jason Husser, assistant director of the Elon University Poll. "Tillis voters are much more likely to support an aggressive military response to ISIS. Hagan voters are much more likely to prefer no military action or only air strikes to respond to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria."

From zero percent to 100 percent, what percent chance do you think a widespread outbreak of Ebola will occur and infect 100 or more people in the United States? Average percentage responses were:
All likely voters: 31 percent
Tillis likely voters: 38 percent
Hagan likely voters: 23 percent

"Contrary to some perceptions, few North Carolinians are panicking over Ebola," Husser said. "Most believe the chance of a widespread outbreak is relatively small."

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: 69 percent
Oppose: 28 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: 48 percent
Don't know: 6 percent

Do you think state laws in North Carolina should make access to an abortion more difficult or less difficult?
More difficult: 41 percent
Less difficult: 46 percent
Don't know: 11 percent

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, CONGRESS and NORTH CAROLINA GOV. PAT McCRORY

Support for President Barack Obama continues to lag in North Carolina. Fifty-two percent of likely voters disapprove of his job handling with just 40 percent offering approval for his performance, a small improvement since September. Seventy-nine percent of likely voters disapprove of the way Congress is handing its own responsibilities, which is also a small improvement in public perception of the federal legislative body.

Locally, support for North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is eroding among likely voters. Thirty-seven percent of likely voters approve of his job performance, down 6 percentage points since last month. Fifteen percent didn't know how they felt about the governor.