Democrat Hillary Clinton (45 percent) leads Republican Donald Trump (43 percent), in North Carolina, according to a Suffolk University poll of voters in that state likely to cast ballots in the November presidential election.

The results show a reversal since a September poll by Suffolk University, when Trump led 44 percent to 41 percent in North Carolina, but the 2-point margin represents a statistical dead heat. Libertarian Gary Johnson was the choice of 5 percent of voters in this week’s Suffolk poll, and 5 percent of voters were undecided.

“The five point swing is due to an improvement among women supporting Hillary Clinton and a Trump decline among independents,” said David Paleologos director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “These two groups of voters have tipped more to Clinton recently, and she appears to have benefited from the fallout over Trump’s lewd comments about women.”

Among women, Clinton had an 11-point lead over Trump, up 10 points from a 1-point advantage in September. Among independents, Trump’s 17-point lead in September dropped 10 points to a 7-point lead over Clinton today.

The 5-point shift comes in the aftermath of last Friday’s release of an Access Hollywood video of Trump’s making demeaning comments about women 11 years ago. While 69 percent of voters said the video had not changed their opinion of Trump, 14 percent said it did. An additional 14 percent had not seen the recording.

Voters favor Clinton’s chances

Perceptions about who will win the election also have changed significantly since Suffolk University polled North Carolina in September. At that time, 49 percent of voters believed that Clinton would prevail in November, regardless of their personal choice, while 66 percent now believe that Clinton will be the next president. This contrasts with the change in Trump’s numbers: In September 33 percent believed he would win the election, compared to 22 percent now.

“Interestingly, Trump lost ground even among those likely voters who see Fox News as the most trustworthy source of political information,” said Paleologos. Last month these voters said that, despite their personal preferences, Trump would win by a 36-point margin (59 percent to Clinton’s 23 percent). However, Fox News watchers now say Clinton will win by a 6-point margin (45 percent to Trump’s 39 percent).

Judging the debate

Seventy percent of North Carolina voters tuned in to the second presidential debate, which followed release of the controversial tape, and were split on which candidate prevailed. When asked who won the debate, 42 percent chose Clinton and 41 percent Trump, while 9 percent called it a draw and 8 percent were undecided. Fifty-one percent said that Trump exceeded their expectations; 36 percent said the same of Clinton; while 5 percent said both exceeded expectations; and 8 percent were undecided.

As the political storm played out on the debate stage Sunday in St. Louis, Hurricane Matthew was pounding North Carolina, causing flooding and power outages. The number of respondents who did not see the debate swelled to 40 percent in the hard-hit east/coastal region, compared to 29 percent of non-viewers statewide.

North Carolina voters said that the number one issue facing the next president is terrorism/national security (20 percent), followed closely by jobs/economy (19 percent), and choosing Supreme Court nominees (16 percent).

Senate Race

In the North Carolina race for U.S. Senate, Republican Richard Burr, the incumbent, led Democrat Deborah Ross by 4 points, 40 percent to 36 percent, while 6 percent favor Libertarian Sean Haugh, and 16 percent were undecided.

Methodology

The North Carolina survey of 500 likely voters was conducted Oct. 10 – Oct. 12 using live telephone interviews of households where respondents indicated they were very or somewhat likely to vote in the 2016 general election. The margin of error is +/-4.4 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence. Marginals and full cross-tabulation data are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, dpaleologos@suffolk.edu.