Incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan retains the 2 point lead over Republican challenger and North Carolina General Assembly Speaker Thom Tillis that she had when a similar poll was taken in August, according to a Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll of likely voters in the Nov. 4 general election. Hagan led Tillis 47 percent to 45 percent, including leaners, with 4 percent choosing Libertarian Sean Haugh and 3 percent undecided. Initially Hagan and Tillis were tied at 45 percent, but when undecided respondents were asked who they would vote for if they were standing in the voting booth today, more chose Hagan, giving her the lead, although still within the margin of error.

Hagan is ahead 52 percent-38 percent among women and leads in the Triangle, including the Raleigh-Durham area, 56 percent-36 percent. She also is strong among voters who said the most important issues are education (65 percent-23 percent) and health care (56 percent-34 percent). Tillis, on the other hand leads among men, 53 percent-38 percent; voters in the mountain west counties, 58 percent-33 percent; and among voters who said that the budget (64 percent-31 percent) and foreign policy (60 percent-29 percent) are the top issues facing Congress.

“Both candidates are benefiting from a coalescing of their respective demographic bases,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “Now that voters see the reality of an election in four weeks, they are coming home to the candidates who share their values and vision for the next six years.”

The poll is part of a midterm elections partnership between Suffolk University and USA TODAY that includes polling and analysis of key U.S. Senate and other statewide races and key issues.

Voters said that recent negative advertising would have little or no impact on their November ballot decisions. Fifty-three percent said that an ad accusing Kay Hagan of missing several Senate Armed Service Committee hearings while the ISIS threat grew in Iraq and Syria would make no difference in their vote. And 45 percent of voters said that an ad accusing Thom Tillis of cutting 500 million dollars from North Carolina schools would not affect their vote.

Methodology

The survey was conducted via random-digit dial of landline and cell phones. All respondents said that they are very or somewhat likely to vote in the Nov. 4 election. The field of 500 likely general-election voters was conducted Saturday, Oct. 4, through Tuesday, Oct. 7. The margin of error is +/-4.4 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. Results are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.