From leans Democrat to ‘toss up.’ What to make of the latest NC governor’s race poll

As sure as there is an election year, there are polls. Partisan polls, nonpartisan polls, bipartisan polls.

The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter’s latest poll includes a dash of what we find in most polls, with an added splash of what North Carolina is: a swing state.

Cook partnered with Republican polling firm GS Strategy Group and Democratic polling firm BSG for their joint “Swing State Project,” which polled nearly 4,000 voters this month in seven swing states.

Results of the poll show that North Carolina’s race for governor between Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein and Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is close.


Here are the main things you should know about the poll and what it means for North Carolina:

North Carolina is one of seven battleground states.

North Carolina voters have chosen both President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump on their ballots. The state is divided government, meaning that the governor is a Democrat, Gov. Roy Cooper; and the General Assembly is controlled by Republicans in both the House and the Senate. Statewide elections are won and lost in single digit percentage points. We’ve been described as a purple state because voters don’t heavily lean Democratic blue or Republican red. In fact, the largest voting group in the state are unaffiliated voters, followed by Democrats and then Republicans.

Cook Political Report also polled Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin voters.

This new poll changes Cook Political Report’s prediction for the governor’s race.

Cook Political Report wrote that they have changed their analysis of North Carolina’s gubernatorial race from one that leans Democrat “given the party’s recent track record of winning even as former President Donald Trump carried the state” and cited Robinson’s “lengthy history of controversial comments — from maligning women to attacking the LGBTQ+ community to making anti-Semitic remarks ....”

But it has shifted to a “toss up,” because of Robinson’s fundraising and focus on the economy, Cook Political writes.

New poll has former President Donald Trump up over President Joe Biden.

The groups’ “Swing State Project” poll has Trump leading Biden by seven points among North Carolina voters.

But keep in mind that voters in this state narrowly chose Trump over Biden in 2020 by 1.3%, as The N&O has previously reported, while choosing Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper over Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest by a wider margin. The COVID-19 response was a major factor in that election.

Politics of personality a factor.

Cook Political Report also notes that swing voters are the ones who will determine this election, including those who may be dissuaded from Robinson’s controversial comments on everybody from LGBTQ+ people to teachers to antisemitic remarks.

As N.C. Central University political science professor Jarvis Hall told The N&O earlier this year, “We know that North Carolina has a very large number of unaffiliated voters. And it seems to me from what I’ve observed, is that the unaffiliated voters will be turned off by the kinds of things that Robinson has talked about.”

The election is not until November.

It is not yet June, and Election Day is still five months away, so polls may change.

Before the primary, a potential Robinson-Stein matchup polled by East Carolina University had Robinson leading with 44% of votes to Stein’s 40%, and 16% undecided.

Western Carolina University politics professor Chris Cooper said ahead of the primary that polls can be a signal to candidates, legislators and policymakers. He said that polls become better predictors the closer they get to the election.

What Stein, Robinson campaigns say about the poll

Robinson’s campaign presented the latest poll as evidence Robinson’s “vision and message continues to resonate with North Carolina voters of all backgrounds and walks of life.”

“Far-left career politicians like Joe Biden and Josh Stein have brought open borders, crippling inflation and rampant crime on the rise in many of our major cities,” Robinson spokesperson Mike Lonergan said in a statement.

“The voters have had enough and are ready for a bold conservative outsider like Mark Robinson to partner with President Trump and roll back the failed policies and radical agenda of Biden, Stein and the Democrats,” he said.

Stein’s campaign also marked a divide between the two candidates.

“This report reiterated what we’ve known from the very beginning — this race is going to be close,” Stein campaign manager Jeff Allen told The N&O.

“That’s why Josh is working hard to earn every single vote. This campaign will illustrate the clear choice North Carolinians have between a safer, stronger North Carolina with Josh Stein or a path of hate and division under Mark Robinson,” Allen said.

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