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Elon Poll reveals N.C. voters better align with Romney

September 3, 2012

The Elon Poll showed Romney has a slight lead over Obama in the state of North Carolina.

CHARLOTTE- North Carolina has been characterized as a swing state, but the results of the most recent Elon University Poll show Republican nominee Mitt Romney has a slight lead over President Barack Obama and few likely voters in the state remain undecided.

“(The candidates) are fighting over a slim margin of voters because most have made up their mind,” said political reporter Rob Christensen at a panel discussion following the release of the Elon Poll results at The Charlotte Observer.

According to the Elon Poll, which was conducted Aug. 25 to Aug. 30, if the election was held today, 47 percent of likely voters in North Carolina would vote for Romney, while 43 percent of likely voters would vote in favor of Obama. Nine percent of respondents answered that they don’t know, are undecided or preferred neither candidate.

“We call it a swing state, but it pretty much is on the outlines of the swing states,” said Anita Kumar, a White House reporter for McClatchy Newspapers.

Nevertheless, North Carolina is still a critical state in the upcoming national election, according to Charlie Cook, political analyst and founder of the Cook Political Report.

“There are 11 swing states, and North Carolina is the only one where Romney has a measurable lead,” he said. “I think you will see the Obama campaign stay here in North Carolina, but North Carolina is a must win state for Romney. He cannot get to 270 without it.”

Cook said he expects the Obama campaign to remain in the state and force the Republican Party to continue allocating funds in North Carolina, in turn preventing him from investing in many other states that remain on the borderline. But despite the Democratic National Convention’s location in Charlotte, the survey showed an increasing number of self-identified democrats leaning in favor of Romney.

The ideological structure of the state causes citizens to vote along conservative lines, according to David Gergen, professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Kumar expressed a similar opinion.

“In North Carolina we see that democrats are more conservative,” Kumar said. “They may vote for democrats on a local level, but Republicans on the national level.”

The 2012 election is also experiencing a decline in attention from young voters. Thirty-six percent of those between 18 and 30 years indicated they were “very excited” about the upcoming election, a percentage that lags behind every other age group examined, according to Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon University Poll.

In addition, a portion of the votes Obama secured from young voters in the 2008 election may not live in the state anymore, said Domenico Montanaro, NBC News’ deputy political editor.

Montanaro named young voters one of the key groups in the 2012 election.

Furthermore, the unemployment rate in North Carolina is higher than the national average, provoking state voters to search for opportunities for change, Kumar said.

A plurality, 48 percent, of likely voters identified the economy as the most important issue in the campaign and 52 percent said they believed Romney would do a better job of handling the economy.

“The survey found that those who identified the economy, immigration, the federal budget deficit or same-sex marriage as the most important issues were more likely to say they were voting for Romney,” Fernandez said.

Obama’s favorability among female voters has declined as well. While Obama won the women’s vote by 11 points in 2008, he only leads Romney by one point, according to the poll results.

“(The results) suggest Romney is making some headway with women voters,” Fernandez said.

While Obama still has a hold on Black voters in the state, Taylor Batten, editorial page editor for The Charlotte Observer, emphasized the importance of securing the White vote in order to win North Carolina.

“There was a lot of attention paid to white voter turnout (in 2008) and that was key to Obama’s victory in North Carolina,” he said. “When you dig into the numbers you see that the white vote has an effect on the outcome.”

Although 89 percent of likely Black voters indicated support for the President, Obama would have to get 35 percent of the White vote to with the state, according to Batten.

The Elon Poll results show 32 percent of likely White voters are in favor of Obama, which suggests the state could fall on either side of the partisan line.

Fernandez cautioned the Republican National Convention could have caused a bump in favor of the Republican nominee because it occurred during the polling process, but the stability of results throughout the week suggest such a bump would be fairly slight.

Nevertheless, Romney’s message during the convention could attract a few undecided voters, according to Cook. The Republican campaign questioned the American public why they expect the next four years to be better than the last.

How the Obama campaign answers the question during the Democratic National Convention will impact the election, Cook said.

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