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Poll: Burr's numbers up slightly

North Carolinians appear to be a bit more satisfied with U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.

The latest survey by Public Policy Polling shows that the numbers have improved slightly for Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican who is up for re-election next year.

PPP surveyed 711 North Carolina voters from Nov. 9-11. They found that 40 percent of North Carolinians approve of the job Burr is doing, while 31 percent disapprove. That's better than the 38 percent rating Burr got in last month's poll by PPP, and 36 percent in September.

Burr continues to come out on top when voters are asked about match-ups with potential Democratic candidates.

Burr leads U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge (45-35), Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (45-34), former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker (45-33), Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy (44-32), and Chapel Hill attorney Ken Lewis (45-32).

The survey's margin of error was plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

Cunningham no longer quacks

Cal Cunningham's poll numbers didn't move much during the period where he was exploring a bid for U.S. Senate.

Cunningham, a Lexington lawyer, was the non-candidate candidate, who appeared at events and quietly looked at a run against Republican Sen. Richard Burr, giving Dome plenty of chances to use duck similes. Now, Dome must put away the quacks because Cunningham is out.

It's likely that his decision had something to do with whatever it is U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge will decide about the race.

It's also helpful to note that Cunningham had the same level of support against Burr in October than he did in February. Public Policy Polling noted in February that Burr was leading Cunningham 46 to 27. In October, the pollster pulled the same percentages. Pollster.com, which averages and analyzes polling data, showed that Cunningham's support over time was only slightly better than a flat line.

And for the record, Pollster.com shows declared candidate Kenneth Lewis with an average of 29.1 percent to Burr's 44.5. It's notable that Lewis and Cunningham, two unknowns, were getting similar numbers suggesting that polling results in their cases are more about Burr's level of support.

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, also a declared candidate, has 31.2 percent to Burr's 43.9 percent, according to Pollster.com's analysis. And Etheridge has 34.7 percent to 43.3 percent for Burr.

Poll: Burr down but not nearly out

Is it possible that North Carolina voters aren't happy with Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, but still like him a lot better than any of the Democratic alternatives?

That seems to be the message from the latest survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm that surveyed 683 voters from Oct. 2-4.

Burr's approval rating was just 36 percent. That's down slightly from last month's survey, which had Burr's approval rating at 38 percent.

But when voters were asked about possible match-ups with some of the possible Democratic candidates, Burr easily came out on top. Here's a look at what the survey found:

Burr ratings: down but still ahead

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr's approval rating remains below 40 percent, which might ordinarily be bad news for a politician, but he's still ahead of any of his potential Democratic challengers in next year's election, according to a poll released Friday.

The approval rating for Burr, a Republican, was 38 percent, according to the survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm. In matchups against possible Democratic opponents, Burr beat:

U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, of Lillington, by 41 to 34 percent.

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, who officially launched her candidacy this week, and former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker, by the same margin of 42 to 31 percent.

Former N.C. Sen. Cal Cunningham by 42 to 30 percent.

Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy by 43 to 29 percent.

Durham lawyer Kenneth Lewis by 43 to 27 percent.

The survey of 600 voters was taken Sept. 2 to 8 and has a margin of error of 4 percent.

Blog sees Burr seat seen as vulnerable

The FiveThirtyEight blog ranks Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr's seat as the 11th most likely to change parties in next year's Senate elections.

The blog, which analyzes polling data, reports that Republicans are now more likely to gain seats than lose seats in next year's elections. Burr's seat ranks 11 of 15 on the blog's August ranking in likelihood that it would change party. That's an improvement for Burr, whose seat was listed by the blog as seventh most likely to change parties in May. 

Citing analysis by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver says that Burr's low-name recognition and low approval numbers suggest that his chances will depend on whether the election is an anti-incumbent year. 

That may be especially true since the Democrats are still scrambling to find a credible challenger to Burr. Rob Christensen reports that Democrats are "going through an awkward dance to find a candidate to go toe-to-toe with Burr in 2010."

"There is a vacuum," said Gary Pearce, a veteran Democratic strategist in Raleigh. "Nobody has really stepped in to fill it, nobody with the name or the money or the backing to put an end to all of this."

So the list of potential Democratic candidates continues to grow. There are little-known figures such as former state Sen. Cal Cunningham of Lexington, Durham lawyer Kenneth Lewis and Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy who seem eager to jump into the race.

And there are potential candidates who are better known, but seem less sure. They include U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge of Lillington, former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker of Sanford, and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall of Lillington.

Burr bests seven potential contenders

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr leads seven potential contenders.

In a survey by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, the Winston-Salem Republican had an advantage over seven Democrats when given only name, party and sometimes title.

In order from Burr's biggest to smallest leads:

Burr (48) Walter Dalton (29) Undecided (22)
Burr (44) Heath Shuler (28) Undecided (28)
Burr (47) Bob Etheridge (31) Undecided (22)
Burr (47) Richard Moore (34) Undecided (19)
Burr (44) Dan Blue (33) Undecided (23)
Burr (46) Elizabeth Edwards (35) Undecided (19)

The firm also tested former state Sen. Cal Cunningham, giving a two-sentence glowing description about his time in Iraq and as a former state senator:

Burr (42) Cunningham (34) Undecided (24)

"Although it's taking Democrats a while to get a candidate, Burr's standing is still tenuous, and getting someone with a lot of name recognition isn't necessarily that important to winning next year," said pollster Dean Debnam.

The firm did not test Durham attorney Kenneth Lewis, who has said he may run.

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