The races for president and governor in North Carolina are virtually tied with just 15 days to go until Election Day, according to a Monmouth University poll released Monday.
In the presidential race, Hillary Clinton has a 1-point advantage over Donald Trump, well within the poll’s 4.9-point margin of error.
Gov. Pat McCrory has surged since August, when he trailed Democrat Roy Cooper by 9 points. McCrory now holds a 1-point lead, the new poll shows.
In the Senate race, Republican Sen. Richard Burr has opened a 6-point lead over Democratic challenger Deborah Ross.
The results indicate North Carolina will live up to its billing as a key battleground state that could decide not just the outcome of the presidential contest, but also which party controls the Senate next year.
Forty-seven percent of those surveyed said they preferred Clinton over Trump, up from 44% in August. Trump was at 46%, up from 42% in August. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson dropped from 7% to 4%.
“The main thing that’s moved in this race is a drop in support for Gary Johnson and more undecided voters making up their minds,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “In any event, it remains a nail-biter.”
Burr, running for a third term, gained some ground since August, when he led Ross 45% to 43%. The new poll shows him at 49% and Ross at 43%.
“Burr seems to be holding off a tough challenge, at least for now,” Murray said.
While voters are fairly stable in their view of the presidential and Senate races, there was much more movement in the governor’s race.
In the new survey, McCrory polled at 48% over Cooper, at 47%. In August, Cooper led 52% to 43%.
Pollsters attributed the swing to a shift in the issues most on North Carolina voters' minds — away from the HB2 law favored by McCrory that blocked local governments from allowing transgender people to use public restrooms of their choice, and toward recovery from Hurricane Matthew.
“HB2 seemed to be the contest’s driving factor during the summer, but the devastation left by Hurricane Matthew may be a more immediate concern for many voters,” Murray said.
The Monmouth University poll also attempted to gauge what would happen if some voters skip the presidential election altogether.
When pollsters excluded voters considered “least probable” to cast a ballot, Democrats gained 3-4 points in the Senate and governor's races.
“The least probable voters include Trump supporters who feel the prospect of victory is slipping away and Republicans who are reluctantly voting for Clinton at the top of the ticket," Murray said. "If both types of voters stay away from the polls on Election Day, it could have a negative impact on GOP candidates down the ballot."
The Monmouth University poll was conducted Oct. 20-23 by phone with 402 likely North Carolina voters.