GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – If you find that political horse-race polling is food for thought, you have a lot to chew on this week in the race for the U.S. Senate in North Carolina.

Civitas, Politico Playbook and High Point University all released polls that magnified the very fine margin in the stretch run between Democrat Cheri Beasley and Republican Ted Budd to replace retiring Republican Richard Burr.

Democrat Cheri Beasley (left) and Republican Ted Budd are very close in their race for the U.S. Senate. (WGHP)

Civitas, a poll for the right-leaning John Locke Foundation, showed Beasley with an ever-so-slight lead, 44% to 43.7%.  Politico showed Budd and Beasley to be dead even, each polling at 46%.

Both of those are closer than the WGHP/Emerson College/The Hill Poll released last week, which showed Budd with a lead of 2.4%. But all of them were within margins of error and taken from among likely voters.

Budd is a gun-shop owner from Advance who has represented the 13th Congressional District since 2016, and Beasley is an attorney from Cumberland County and former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Their race long has been considered neck-and-neck. Libertarian Shannon Bray and Green Party candidate Matthew Hoh also are on the ballot for Nov. 8.

Budd and Beasley both easily won crowded primaries, and Beasley has raised more in donations. Both have strong support from political action committees and super PACs. They are scheduled to debate on cable television on Oct. 7.

Deciding factors

Locke Foundation President Donald Bryson said that this election likely will be “determined by the 10 to 15% of North Carolinians who remain undecided.”

Politico also found that the issue cited in a WGHP/Nexstar/Emerson poll of voters – abortion – was affecting the race. That poll showed that abortion is a motivating factor – 59% said the Supreme Court’s decision made them more likely to vote – and Politico’s pollster wrote that Budd has “extreme positions, including on abortion,” that were making an impression with voters.

Favorability ratings

But a High Point University Poll that measured favorability ratings of many candidates, officer-holders and institutions gave Beasley higher marks than Budd.

Beasley was seen as favorable by 35% to Budd’s 29%, and Budd was seen as unfavorable by 38% compared to Beasley’s 31%. Both did better than Burr (25/37) or Sen. Thom Tillis (28/40).

But the chilling factor is that about 1 in 3 respondents to HPU’s poll said they were “unsure or not familiar with this person.” Those numbers are slightly better than a poll released on Sept. 1.

 “While the poll indicates how favorable respondents are feeling these days, it’s also apparent that many are unsure or unfamiliar with several of them,” Brian McDonald, associate director of the HPU Poll, said in a release.

Politico’s polling also reflected that impression, finding that Beasley had a similar favorability rating (36% favorable/28% unfavorable) as did Budd (31% favorable/36% unfavorable).

“The more voters learn about each candidate,” Politico’s pollster wrote, “the more they support Beasley, with Beasley leading among voters who are familiar with both candidates (53% of the electorate) by 11-points (54% Beasley/43% Budd).”