North Carolina Still Up For Grabs

President Obama won North Carolina four years ago by a razor thin margin, and development since then such as the outcome of the 2010 elections in the state and the ongoing problems faced by the state’s Democratic Party have led many to believe that it would be hard for him to repeat there this time around. Recent polling, though, is showing that the Tarheel State is still within the grasp of both candidates: 

PPP’s pre-Democratic convention North Carolina poll finds the Presidential race in the state all tied up: Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are each at 48%.

Just as we found in Florida, the Republican convention doesn’t seem to be giving Romney much of a bounce. 34% of voters say that the convention made them more likely to support the GOP this year, 33% said it made them less likely to do so, and 33% said it didn’t make a difference to them either way. Romney’s lack of a convention bounce could simply be a product of his not being that good of a public speaker. 56% of North Carolina voters say Obama gives better speeches compared to 35% for Romney.

Although the Presidential race remains a toss up, Mitt Romney has seen some improvement in his image with North Carolinians over the last month. 47% rate him favorably now to 48% with an unfavorable opinion. That’s up a net 7 points from our last poll when he was at a -8 spread with 42% of voters rating him positively and 50% negatively. Obama’s approval rating has barely changed since early August in the state- 48% of voters think he’s doing a good job to 50% who disapprove of him. Romney and Obama are both slightly under water in their favorability/approval numbers.

Obama’s areas of strength are pretty predictable. He’s up 51-44 with women, 83-15 with non-white voters, and 50-45 with folks under 65. Romney is up 52-44 with men, 60-35 with white voters, and 58-39 with seniors. That wide generational gap is particularly telling- North Carolina might be a swing state for a long time moving forward. Romney’s overcoming the Democratic registration advantage in the state thanks to a 51-40 advantage with independents.

The second North Carolina poll shows Romney with a slight lead:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Republican Mitt Romney appears to have gotten his bounce from his party’s national convention – at least in the state hosting the Democratic convention, according to a poll released Sunday.

The new Elon University/Charlotte Observer Poll shows the GOP presidential candidate leading President Barack Obama 47 percent to 43 percent in North Carolina.

The poll, which has a margin of error of 3 percentage points, surveyed likely voters from Aug. 25-30, during the GOP convention in Tampa. Elon did the poll in partnership with the Observer and the News & Observer of Raleigh.

“I would have to say that is a small, modest bump,” said poll director Kenneth Fernandez.

The poll showed:

• While Romney enjoys a 12-point lead among male voters, the candidates are virtually tied among women. Other polls have given Obama a wide lead among women. A CNN/Time survey last week, for example, showed women favored the president by 10 points.

Republicans, including Ann Romney at the Republican convention, directly appealed to women in an effort to close the perceived gender gap.

• Obama may be suffering from an “excitement” gap. Fifty-one percent of Romney supporters described themselves as “very excited” compared to 47 percent of Obama voters.

• Romney has made no inroads among African American voters. Only 1 percent of black voters support him, while 89 percent back Obama. Ten percent say they don’t know or refused to answer.

• Romney has a 3-point edge when voters were asked which candidate most shared their values.

Romney currently has a slight lead in the RealClearPolitics average, but as the chart shows, the President is still in a strong position in the state:

I’d still say that Romney has a slight advantage in North Carolina both due to the state’s rightward drift the last two years, but he hasn’t pulled away in the state yet and there’s still a very good chance that the President’s campaign, which has been on the ground there for months now, can still pull out a victory. If that happens, the scenarios for a Romney victory become quite grim indeed.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. James Joyner says:

    More importantly, whether Romney ultimately wins North Carolina or not—and I suspect he will—the fact that he hasn’t even closed the deal there yet means that he’s in big trouble, since he’ll need to take true swing states like Ohio.

  2. @James Joyner:

    This is true.

  3. Jr says:

    @James Joyner: Exactly, Obama isn’t winning NC, and you can tell giving he hasn’t really put anymore money into the state. But the fact that the state is still a toss-up doesn’t bold well for VA and OH, which are must wins.

  4. Smooth Jazz says:

    “the fact that he hasn’t even closed the deal there yet means that he’s in big trouble, since he’ll need to take true swing states like Ohio.”

    I’ve seen a lot of comments and posts to the effect “Romney hasn’t done this or that or whatever” but very little discussion on here (by Posters and Commenters) about the elephant in the room: Obama is in trouble if he is truly at 43% – 44% nationally and in the battleground states. As I write this Gallup has job approval at 43% and Rasmussen has Romney winning 48% – 44%. You can dismiss Rasmussen as “Right Wing Tool” all you want but name a President that won an election with a 43% approval rating??

    What I would like to see is a poll of OH, VA, FLA et al by a reputable polling outfit with a reasonable partisan breakdown (Dems vs Reps, White vs Non Whites, Men vs Women etc). Forget these bogus NYTimes/CBS/Quinn/PPP polls that oversample Dems by 10% or women by 10%. Those polls don’t tell us anything except the agenda of the entity taking the poll. If a reputable poll of these states show Obama in the 43% – 45% range, then your question can arguably be rephrased: WHY HASN’T OBAMA CLOSED THE DEAL.

    I doubt Obama wants to be at 43% – 45% approval in OH, VA & FLA going into election day. He is NOT getting late breakers and last minute deciders.

  5. EddieInCA says:

    Every four years, NC is going to get more and more competitive just due to demographics.

    Not enough Angry White Guys to hold off the emerging Democratic “ethnic/urban” coalition.

  6. mattb says:

    @Smooth Jazz:
    GWB’s national approval ratings were not significantly higher than that (he hit mid 40’s twice in October) going into the 2004 election. The fact is that in incumbant politics, ties normally go to the winner.

    The fact is, that like Kerry, Romney has not been able to significantly move the needle. The polls have been largely stable in all the swing states (and note that even Rasmussen demonstrates that when you actually dig into the data in each state).

    Ultimately this election is going to be decided by whose base come out and who can bring 1 oe 2% of the voters in these few states to their side. Right now neither candidate has a lot of momentum behind them. And that puts the challenger in a far worse position.

  7. Smooth Jazz says:

    “GWB’s national approval ratings were not significantly higher than that (he hit mid 40′s twice in October) going into the 2004 election.”

    You are wrong. GWB’s Gallup job approval ratings ranged from 48% – %53 between Sep & election day in early Nov 2004. You can see that here (You can scroll down the list to Sep & Nov 2004:

    Once again, if Obama remains at 43%, I submit we will not be in a tie. That JA suggests enough voters have turned away from the incumbent to put his job in serious jeopardy. 43% JA is a VERY dangerous number for Obama going into election day. Don’t underestimate the lack of enthusiasm on behalf of Obama that’s implicit in that Job Approval number.

  8. anjin-san says:


    If the election were held today, Obama would win with 300 electoral votes. Get some new material Kenny.

  9. Tsar Nicholas says:

    It’s a good thing Romney controls the voting machines.

    On a serious note, based upon PPP’s very recent track record (the WI recall, various primaries), if they’re telling you the contest is 48-48 that actually means Romney is up 51-47 or thereabouts. Close enough for the media to wish upon a star, but ultimately not all that close in the greater scheme of things.

  10. bill says:

    i wonder if NC goes for obama will they be “forward thinking progressives” again? and if the go for romney will they be “racists”? funny how we tend to generalize states, even when they’re virtually split about how they vote. enough of this.