Romney leads in N.C. as DNC begins

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney holds a lead over President Barack Obama in the battleground state of North Carolina as the incumbent president’s party comes to Charlotte this week for the Democratic National Convention, according to the latest Elon University Poll conducted in partnership with The Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer.

If the presidential election were held today, 47 percent of likely voters would cast their ballots for Romney while 43 percent would support Obama. Six percent of respondents don’t know or are undecided.

The live-caller telephone poll of 1,089 likely voters was conducted Aug. 25-30, 2012, and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points. Both land lines and cell phones were included in the sample.

Self-identified Republicans show strong support for Romney (85 percent), with independents (40 percent) leaning in his direction. Conversely, with Obama, nearly a quarter of self-identified Democrats (23 percent) said they would vote for Romney. Thirty-four percent of independents said they would vote for Obama.

Romney’s strength among North Carolina Democrats in 2012 shows vestiges of the Reagan Democrats, many of whom were from the South.

Romney also carries more support from likely voters with annual incomes greater than $50,000, and the Republican nominee polls well among men; more than half (52 percent) say they will vote for him. Women are almost evenly split on their support for Obama (45 percent) and Romney (44 percent), while 50 percent of likely voters making less than $25,000 annually said they would vote for Obama.

More white voters (59 percent) said they plan to vote for Romney, while 32 percent said Obama. Eighty-nine percent of black voters will cast their votes for Obama, with only 8 percent of African-Americans saying they “don’t know” who they’ll support.

Respondents were asked which candidate they believed would do better handling certain issues.

Better Job of Handling the Economy

  • Romney: 52 percent
  • Obama: 39 percent

Better Job of Handling Foreign Relations

  • Romney: 41 percent
  • Obama: 47 percent

Most Closely Shares Their Values

  • Romney: 48 percent
  • Obama: 45 percent

“Likely voters who are concerned with certain issues are more likely to support Mitt Romney,” said Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon University Poll. “The survey found that those who identified the economy, immigration, the federal budget deficit, or same-sex marriage as the most important issues were more likely to say they were voting for Romney, while those who identified health care, education, and the environment as the most important issues were more likely to support Obama.”

Top Issues for Voters

The economy remains top on the minds of North Carolina voters. The top four most important issues for voters in making their presidential choice are:

  • Economy or Jobs: 48 percent
  • Health Care: 16 percent
  • Federal Budget Deficit: 13 percent
  • Education: 10 percent

Respondents were then asked to list the second-most important issue when deciding their vote. The top four responses were the same.

  • Economy or Jobs: 25 percent
  • Health Care: 22 percent
  • Federal Budget Deficit: 18 percent
  • Education: 12 percent

Voter Enthusiasm

Forty-three percent of likely voters say they are “very excited” for the fall election, and another 27 percent are “somewhat excited.” Of those who were very excited, more than half (51 percent) plan to vote for Romney. For those who said they “don’t know” how they feel about the election, 48 percent said they plan to vote for Obama, 18 percent for Romney, and 29 percent “don’t know” who they would support.

“The small but statistically significant advantage that Romney has over Obama may be due to the attention that Romney and the Republican Party received during the recent convention in Tampa,” Fernandez said. “But the survey also suggests that Obama’s slim margin of victory in the state in 2008 might be in jeopardy.”

Economic Outlook

More than two thirds of respondents say they believe the economy will get better or stay about the same this year. Just 13 percent believe the economy will get worse. Along those lines, nearly four out of five survey respondents expressed little or no worry about their personal job security. Of those polled, just 20 percent were “somewhat worried” or “very worried” about their employment.

More than half of respondents (52 percent) say they are opposed to extending the Bush tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 each year.

About three out of four respondents say they are “pretty happy” or “very happy.” Twenty-six percent are “not too happy” or “don’t know.”

North Carolina Governor’s Race

In the race for North Carolina governor, Republican former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory is currently running far ahead of incumbent Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton.

If the election were held today, 52 percent of respondents would vote for McCrory, while Dalton would carry 37 percent of the vote. Eleven percent remain undecided.

Convention Knowledge

Though the location of the 2012 Democratic National Convention has been set for more than a year, nearly a quarter of likely voters in this survey either incorrectly answered where the event would be held this year or responded they “don’t know.”

About the same percentage of respondents also didn’t know that the Republican National Convention was held in Tampa, Fla.

The Democratic Party saw a small increase in support because of its decision to appoint a Hispanic keynote speaker at the event, the first time ever that the party has given a Latino that role. Ten percent said the selection gives them a more favorable impression; 5 percent said they had a less favorable view; 83 percent said it made no difference.