By Jim EllisOct. 7, 2020 — On Friday, it came to light, after the announcement that North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis had been diagnosed with COVID-19, that Democratic nominee Cal Cunningham who has been leading for most of the race is involved in a sexting affair with a married woman. The story was carried heavily in media reports on Friday.
Almost immediately, Public Policy Polling went into the field to assess the damage, and while they find Cunningham still holding the advantage it is half the size of the double-digit margin he enjoyed in the previous two surveys.
The North Carolina Senate race has been heavily studied. Just since Sept. 15, we have seen no less than 13 polls released of this Senate contest with Cunningham leading in all.
The new Public Policy Polling survey (Oct. 4-5; 911 North Carolina voters via interactive voice response system) sees Cunningham holding a 48-42 percent lead over Sen. Tillis. Though the margin is six points, the spread is down significantly from the 13- and 12-point advantages he recorded in the two most recent polls from Hart Research Associates (Sept. 24-27; 400 likely North Carolina voters via live interview) and ALG Research (Sept. 22-28; 822 voters, online), respectively.
The PPP data reveals that Cunningham is taking a hit over the budding scandal. When asked whether “the information about Cal Cunningham having a relationship with a woman who is not his wife make you more or less likely to vote for him, or does it not make a difference,” 37 percent answered they are less likely to support him versus three percent who said they were more inclined. A total of 58 percent said the breaking story would make no difference in how they decide to vote.