The latest ECU poll reaffirms findings from other recent voter surveys

Published October 8, 2020

By East Carolina University Poll

The latest ECU Poll, conducted October 2-4, finds former Vice President Joe Biden with a lead over President Donald Trump among likely voters in North Carolina, 50% to 46%. This marks a three-point increase for Biden and a three-point decrease for Trump from the last ECU poll conducted in late August, when Trump led 49% to 47%. Of those who answered that they intend to vote for either Trump or Biden, 95% responded that they have made up their mind already, with just 5% who answered that they are still open to changing their mind.

Vice President Biden currently holds a double-digit lead among female voters, 54% to 42%. Four years ago, exit polls showed Trump within single digits among female voters (with 52% for Clinton to 45% for Trump). Among men, President Trump leads 52% to 46%, although this is down from four years ago when Trump held an 18-point advantage, 56% to 38%.

Among individuals without a 4-year college degree, Trump leads Biden 54% to 40%. This 14-point advantage marks an increase from the 10-point advantage that Trump held among these voters (53% to 43%) in 2016. Likewise, among whites without a 4-year college degree, Trump holds a commanding lead, 67% to 29% -- an advantage similar to four years ago when he carried working-class white voters by a 69% to 25% margin. However, among all respondents with a 4-year college degree or higher, Biden leads Trump 60% to 38%. Four years ago, Clinton edged Trump by only one point among North Carolina voters with a 4-year college degree, 49% to 48%.

The poll results also show 47% of likely voters in North Carolina approve of President Trump’s overall job performance, while 51% disapprove. When it comes to the handling of the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, 45% approve of President Trump’s performance whereas 52% disapprove. Evaluations of the president’s performance in handling the coronavirus outbreak are strongly associated with intended voting behavior. Approximately 96% of likely voters who approve of President Trump’s handling of the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak in the United States intend to vote for him. By comparison, just 3% of those who disapprove of President Trump’s handling of the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak responded that they will vote for him.

Much like the presidential election, North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race remains extremely competitive. Republican Thom Tillis leads Democrat Cal Cunningham by a single point, 46% to 45%. The results show another 6% undecided (with the remainder indicating support for a candidate other than Tillis or Cunningham). The previous ECU poll showed the race tied at 44%.  

In the race for governor, Democrat Roy Cooper holds a double-digit advantage over Republican challenger Dan Forest, 53% to 40% (with 4% undecided and 2% indicating support for some other candidate). Governor Cooper continues to benefit from net positive approval numbers as shown in earlier polls. Approximately 55% of likely voters approve of the governor’s overall job performance compared to 36% who disapprove (with the remaining 9% not sure). Governor Cooper also continues to receive high marks for his handling of the state government’s response to the coronavirus (57% approve compared to 35% who disapprove).

Turning to the race for Lieutenant Governor, Republican Mark Robinson is tied with Democrat Yvonne Lewis Holley at 45% each. The election for Treasurer is deadlocked as well, with Republican Dale Folwell and Democrat Ronnie Chatterji at 44% each. In the race for Attorney General, Republican Jim O’Neill leads Democrat Josh Stein 46% to 43%. Roughly 10% of likely voters remain undecided in these contests.

According to Dr. Peter Francia, Director of the Center for Survey Research, major events over the past week may explain Biden’s uptick since the last ECU Poll. “Although debates are rarely, if ever, a consequential factor in election outcomes, President Trump’s very aggressive style in Tuesday night’s debate with Joe Biden may have backfired on him,” said Francia. He added, “The coronavirus is also dominating news coverage again. As our polling results show, more North Carolina voters disapprove than approve of President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.” In the elections for U.S. Senate and governor, Francia remarked, “Since late February, our polling results have consistently shown a statistical tie in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate contest and a double-digit lead for Roy Cooper in the race for governor. Put simply, not much has changed. The Senate race remains a toss-up, while Governor Cooper is the clear favorite to win re-election.”             


This poll was conducted October 2-4, 2020. The sample consisted of 1,232 likely voters in North Carolina, with a Credibility Interval (CI), similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 3.2 percentage points. The data were weighted by age, education, race, gender, region, mode, and 2016 election modeling. Data were collected using both an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines only (n=783) and an online panel provided by Lucid (n=449).