A Counter Poll in NC-9

By Jim Ellis

North Carolina Republican state Sen. Dan Bishop (left) | Democrat Dan McCready (right)

June 5, 2019 — The Atlantic Media & Research organization went into the field in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District and found a different special election leader than last week’s JMC Analytics poll. Atlantic’s conclusion sees Democrat Dan McCready topping state Sen. Dan Bishop 41-39 percent, which is the inverse of JMC’s result.

JMC projected Sen. Bishop leading 46-42 percent in their survey of 350 likely special election voters conducted on May 21-24. Atlantic polled 358 “definite or very likely” special election voters from May 20-23 and continuing through May 28-30. Though the two polls produced separate leaders, their combined data conclusions are similar in that the participants are within the polling margin of error. While the spread yields an eight-point net difference between the two polls, the margin of error contained in each is less than four percent.

But the Atlantic methodology is a bit different. The research firm polled on consecutive weekdays in two separate weeks leaving the Memorial Day weekend period unsampled. The gap leads to a longer than average polling stage, which could mean a less accurate conclusion.

Atlantic Media also reviews its previous poll completed five months ago in December of last year, just after the general election, and compares those results with the most current data set. The numbers are similar in that the partisan ballot tests and the president’s job approval rating varies by only a percentage point or two. And, attempting to discount the final 2018 result that was infected with voter fraud, the Atlantic December post-election poll finds candidate McCready topping Republican Mark Harris by a tight 46-43 percent margin.

But, this latest Atlantic Media poll gives the Republicans a significant lead in the generic ballot test, 46-38 percent, and the division pertaining to the Trump agenda breaks 51-37 percent in favor.

Also favoring the Republicans is the ideological split. A full majority, or 51 percent, of the respondents describe themselves as conservative; 29 percent say they are moderate; and just 15 percent adopt the liberal term to describe their political leanings. Among the definite voters, the conservatives actually gain, with the adjusted split being 52-28-14 percent over moderates and liberals.

Overlaying the voter history tells a similar story. President Trump carried the district, 54-43 percent, and former incumbent Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte) won the first election held here after the courts ordered the North Carolina congressional districts to be re-drawn with a 58-42 percent margin spread.

Where the Republicans fall down, according to the Atlantic survey, is in a negative reaction to GOP candidate Bishop being the state Senate sponsor of the infamous bathroom bill, HB2, the controversy from which was largely responsible for Gov. Pat McCrory (R) being defeated in the 2016 election, in addition to a lack of motivation permeating the right-of-center voter base.

While the Republicans enjoy generic and ideological advantages, clear slippage occurs when the candidates’ names are added, and even more so when just the definite voters are segmented. Among those describing themselves as “definite voters”, McCready’s lead increases to 44-40 percent.

Despite the conservative ideological bent found within the respondent sample, Sen. Bishop’s numbers fall below McCready’s. Among those considering themselves as “somewhat conservative,” Bishop leads 51-19 percent and 74-10 percent among “very conservative” voters. But, the race turns most significantly as McCready scores a 58-22 percent break among moderates and then sweeps the liberal category, 93-0 percent.

The polling confirms that the 9th District retains its Republican/conservative leanings, but it under-performs for Republican candidates. In order to win, Sen. Bishop must convince those who would generally agree with him on overall issues to support his candidacy, and most importantly, cast their ballot.

With the special general scheduled for Sept. 10, Republican Dan Bishop will need a robust campaign to convince the base Republicans and lean voters to support his candidacy. Otherwise, McCready, with his stronger standing within the Democratic, left-of-center, and moderate bases, will reverse the established voting trend.

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