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New N.C. Poll: Biden and Trump Tied

Incumbent senator narrows gap with Democratic challenger

Election 2020 graphic with outline of state imposed on background image of capital building


Contacts for media: UMass Lowell: Christine Gillette, 978-758-4664 or or Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944,

Detailed poll results and analysis are available at

UMass Lowell representatives are available for interviews about today’s 2020 presidential poll. 

With less than a week to go before Election Day, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden remain deadlocked in the race for the 15 electoral votes in the swing state of North Carolina, according to a new poll released today. 

“North Carolina is a must-win state for Trump, who trails Biden in most national polls and must hold onto the narrow map of states that brought him a victory in 2016,” said Joshua Dyck, director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion and associate professor of political science. 

The independent, nonpartisan poll by the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion found that the candidates are tied at 48 percent each of likely voters, followed by minor party candidates with 2 percent. Only 2 percent of North Carolina likely voters are undecided. The poll results are virtually unchanged from a Sept. 29 poll by the center, which found the candidates tied at 47 percent each among likely voters. As turnout in North Carolina is now above 80 percent of the total turnout in the 2016 election, it’s become clear that early voting has become a major part of the story. Among those who have already voted, Biden has a sizeable lead over Trump, 62 percent to 36 percent. Among those who had not voted when the field was conducted, Trump leads 64 percent to 30 percent.

“Biden’s voters are voting and have voted. Trump’s voters are still out there, waiting until Election Day. A Nov. 3 turnout disaster is a disaster for Trump’s chances in North Carolina, and could cost him the presidency as well,” said John Cluverius, associate director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion and assistant professor of political science. 

White voters in North Carolina support Trump 58 percent to 38 percent for Biden, while Black voters support Biden, 83 percent to 14 percent. More on voters’ support by gender, age, party and education is available at

The poll also looked at how the presidential debates affected voters’ views. The poll included 40 percent of interviews completed after the second debate on Thursday, Oct. 22 and 60 percent completed before it, allowing for comparison of whether the race shifted during the fielding of the poll. The poll found no difference between those interviewed before and after the second presidential debate. Trump and Biden are tied 48 percent to 48 percent among both subgroups.  

Asked who performed better in the debates, North Carolina likely voters overwhelmingly believe that Biden won the first debate 44 percent to Trump’s 26 percent and a slim plurality believe that Trump won the second debate 44 percent to Biden’s 38 percent.

In the race for U.S. Senate in North Carolina, incumbent Republican Sen. Thom Tillis continues to trail Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham by 4 points in a contest that has moved within the poll’s margin of error. The race is in the national spotlight as it is a possible flip for Democrats, who need to gain four seats to regain control of the chamber. 

Cunningham previously led Tillis by 6 points in a Sept. 29 UMass Lowell poll. In the poll released today, Cunningham has the support of 49 percent of North Carolina likely voters, Tillis is at 45 percent and 6 percent remain undecided. Cunningham’s lead is bolstered by support from a large percentage of Democratic voters (95 percent), a lead among independents (41 percent to 35 percent) and also by gaining the support of 10 percent of Republican identifying crossover voters. 

A central defining issue of the 2020 election campaign has been the coronavirus pandemic and resulting policy response from the government. Asked how satisfied they are with the federal government’s response to COVID-19, 57 percent of North Carolina likely voters say they are unsatisfied, compared to 43 percent who are satisfied. Asked who is better suited to handle the pandemic, likely voters give the edge to Biden, 48 percent to 41 percent for Trump. On the question of whether it is safe to re-open schools, 54 percent of North Carolina likely voters say that it is either probably (30 percent) or definitely (24 percent) not safe to reopen local public schools for face-to-face instruction. When asked if Donald Trump could have avoided contracting COVID-19 by wearing a mask more often, 60 percent of likely voters said yes, while 39 percent said no.  

In the run for governor, incumbent Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper leads his Republican challenger Dan Forest by 12 points, 54 percent to 42 percent. The results are virtually unchanged from the center’s Sept. 29 poll, which found Cooper at 54 percent to Forest’s 41 percent. 

The poll also found the following among likely North Carolina voters:

  • Asked who they think will win the 2020 Presidential election, North Carolina likely voters give a Trump reelection the slight edge: 43 percent say Trump and 38 percent say Biden. In the September poll, Trump was ahead 10 points on the question compared to five now. 
  • On who will best handle the economy, 51 percent said Trump and 43 percent said Biden. 
  • The Trump campaign has made a concerted effort to pin to Biden the label of a “corrupt politician,” tying him to his son’s alleged activities in the Ukraine. Has it worked? Head to head, the survey asked likely voters about the candidates on a number of dimensions. On the question of “who is more corrupt?” 47 percent say Trump and 42 percent say Biden, with 7 percent saying they are about equal, and 5 percent unsure.    

Detailed poll results – including analysis and methodology – are available at The nonpartisan poll is independently funded by the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion, which conducts public-opinion polling at the state and national levels. The nationally recognized center uses the latest technology and highest standards in its surveys and is a member of the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s Transparency Initiative. The center’s events and polls on political and social issues provide unique opportunities for civic engagement, experiential learning and research.  

The poll of 911 likely North Carolina voters was independently funded by the University of Massachusetts Lowell, which has more than 1,000 students and alumni who hail from North Carolina. The survey was designed and analyzed by the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion and fielded by YouGov from Oct. 20 through Oct. 26. It has an adjusted margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percent. Full poll methodology is available at

In addition to the survey of likely voters in North Carolina, the Center for Public Opinion also released polls in two other swing states. The findings include: 

  • In New Hampshire, Biden leads by 10 points, with 53 percent of likely voters, compared to 43 percent for Trump. Biden’s lead has widened from eight points in the Sept. 29 poll by the center. Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen leads her challenger, Republican Corky Messner 57 percent to 38 percent.
    Incumbent Republican Gov. Chris Sununu leads Democratic challenger Dan Feltes 59 percent to 36 percent. (Poll of 757 likely New Hampshire voters conducted Oct. 16 through Oct. 26 with an adjusted margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.) 
  • In Texas, Trump is nearly even with Biden, with the support of 48 percent of likely voters compared to 47 percent who favor Biden. The difference is within the plus or minus 4.2 percent margin of error for the poll and Trump’s lead is down from 3 points from the Sept. 29 poll by the center. (Poll of 873 likely Texas voters conducted Oct. 20 through Oct. 26 with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percent.)

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