RALEIGH, NC (WGHP) – With early voting underway and just a week until Election Day, the motivation for voters in North Carolina to go to the polls is crystal clear: the economy.

The latest Emerson College Polling/The Hill/WGHP Poll reveals that 41% of likely voters list the economy as the No. 1 motivating factor in determining for whom they will vote.

That’s by far the greatest percentage of voters, the survey found, and it’s exactly the same percentage cited in a similar survey in September. The survey included under the broad head of the economy the subtopics of inflation, jobs and even taxes.

Emerson College Polling/The Hill/WGHP Poll finds economic issues to be No. 1. (WGHP)

Following the inflation-driven economic issues, the other topics voters cite lag far behind: abortion access, 13% (it was 12% in September), health care, 10% (down from 11%) and threats to democracy, 10% (down from 14%).

And like the poll in September, the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade’s protection of abortion rights this past June moves a plurality (48%) to vote, but that’s down from 59% in September. About 44% say that decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health is not a factor.

Spencer Kimball is the director of the Emerson College Polling Center (Emerson)

“But this time that issue [abortion] has stagnated, and the economy seems to be moving up as the most important issue,” Spencer Kimball, director of Emerson College Polling, said in a follow-up interview. “And, perhaps, those pocketbook issues are what’s shifting that electorate.”

Nearly 3 in 10 surveyed said they already had voted among the approximately 1.3 million votes cast across North Carolina as of Tuesday morning either by mail or by early in-person voting, which ends at 3 p.m. Saturday. Today is the last day to request a mail ballot. Election Day is Nov. 8.

On the ballot are four candidates to replace retiring Republican Richard Burr in the U.S. Senate, races for 14 seats in Congress, all seats in the NC General Assembly, two seats on the NC Supreme Court, four seats on the Court of Appeals and various other local races.

Emerson College conducted the poll on Oct. 27-29 among very likely voters (71%). The poll has a credibility interval – similar to a poll’s margin of error – of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The data were collected using cell phones via SMS-to-web, an interactive voice response system of landlines and an online panel.

“We talked about the Republicans having their main issue as the economy, and then they talk about crime and immigration as secondary issues,” Kimball said. “The Democrats’ problem is they don’t really have a main issue. They have a lot of separate issues that create little pockets of support.”

More preferences

The poll also looked at specific candidates for the Senate and  President Joe Biden’s credibility – that data will be released Wednesday – and included for the first time questions about gun rights, which again has been hotly debated following the mass shooting of five in Raleigh on Oct. 13.

And if you are wondering how these issues are being perceived by voters, the poll found that 49% of voters trust the Republican Party as a better choice to handle inflation, compared to 39% who trust Democrats. Unaffiliated voters trust Republicans more than Democrats, 48% to 31%.

Among those voters who said they were moved by abortion rights to vote this year, about 2 out of 3 said they support Democrat Cheri Beasley, a former chief justice of the NC Supreme Court, in the Senate race, and about 3 in 10 preferred 13th District Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance), a gun-shop owner from Advance. Those who said abortion made no difference preferred Budd by a nearly 3 to 1 margin (70% to 24%).

Gun rights issues

Gun rights became a legislative issue this year when a bipartisan bill coauthored by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) was signed into law by President Biden. That Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was the first significant piece of legislation in decades to address gun issues, but it did nothing to limit the availability of the type of assault weapon used in the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and other mass shootings.

The WGHP poll found that 40% of voters in North Carolina support banning assault-style weapons, and only about 1 in 3 oppose such a ban. But 27% said they were unsure or had no opinion.

“Gun policy is obviously a tough issue,” Kimball said. “It’s something the country has been tackling with.”

Raleigh’s Hedingham neighborhood entrance sign becomes a makeshift memorial Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, following Thursday’s mass shooting in the neighborhood and on the nearby Neuse River greenway trail. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP)

The gun bill does disburse money to states and communities to improve school safety and mental health initiatives and prevent people convicted of domestic abuse, but are not married to their partners, from owning a firearm.

Voters have a wide view of guns rights issues in North Carolina. (WGHP)

The poll found that a majority of voters (57%) support so-called red flag laws, which allow for the removal of guns from a person shown to pose a serious risk to themselves or others. About 22% oppose such laws, and more than 1 in 5 are unsure or have no opinion.

And a plurality of voters (47%) supports the idea of arming teachers, which is opposed by 35%. About 19% have no opinion.

That concept broke sharply on party lines, with almost 2 out of 3 Republicans (63%) wanting teachers armed and 57% of Democrats against that idea.

“Sixty-three percent of Republicans support arming teachers. Fifty-seven percent oppose arming teachers,” Kimball said. “So you’re going to see the two parties are on opposite spectrums when it comes to that issue. And, then independents on all of these issues generally fall within the middle of the two parties.”

And when you ask if most voters would want to repeal the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, the answer is unquestionable: About 1 in 5 like the idea, but 55.6% oppose it. The oddity is that 22.7% aren’t sure.

“There’s going to be a lot of discussion before any action, I believe, is taken,” Kimball said. “But perhaps this is the beginning of that discussion.”