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Polls show Cooper stretching lead over McCrory

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, left, shakes hands with North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper after a debate in Charlotte in June.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, left, shakes hands with North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper after a debate in Charlotte in June. AP

Two polls released Wednesday show Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper stretching his a lead over Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in the North Carolina governor race.

Monmouth University Polling Institute found Cooper leading McCrory by 9 points: 52 percent to 43 percent.

It showed a virtual tie between U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, the Republican incumbent, and challenger Deborah Ross, with Burr up by 2 points and a 4.9 percent margin of error.

The presidential race in North Carolina is also evenly split, with Hillary Clinton receiving 44 percent to Donald Trump’s 42 percent.

This poll reflects the enthusiasm that we’re seeing across the state,” Cooper campaign spokesman Ford Porter said in an emailed statement. “Middle-class families are tired of Governor McCrory’s partisan social agenda and ready for a governor who will create good jobs and improve our schools. Roy Cooper has a real plan to build an economy that works for everyone — and that’s why he’s leading this race.”

McCrory’s campaign spokesman, Ricky Diaz, dismissed the results:

“We don't consider it a reliable poll considering the size of the sample, screening methodology and weighting,” Diaz said in a statement. “We are very confident that we have the momentum in this race, especially as we continue to announce key law enforcement endorsements who are rejecting Roy Cooper because he hasn't done his job as our state's chief law enforcement officer.”

The McCrory campaign plans to make what it calls a major law enforcement endorsement on Thursday.

The poll was taken between Sunday and Tuesday of 401 likely voters. Of those, 350 were drawn from a list of registered voters, and a random digital dial of 51 cell phone interviews.

Cooper has a 3-point lead in an average of the four most recent polls: Monmouth, Marist/Wall Street Joural/NBC, Public Policy Polling and Civitas Institute.

In the latest poll, the long-sitting attorney general still struggles with name recognition. He has a positive personal rating of 38 percent, 18 percent unfavorable and 44 percent without an opinion. McCrory received 39 percent favorable, 41 percent unfavorable, and 20 percent expressing no opinion.

Independents are split at 47 percent for Cooper and 45 percent for McCrory.

The poll also found that House Bill 2 -- the law restricting discrimination protections for LGBT people -- is opposed by 55 percent of respondents and supported by only 36 percent. Seven in 10 voters think HB2 has been bad for the state’s reputation.

Also released Wednesday was a CNN/ORC poll that showed Cooper up by 6 points among registered and likely voters. It also showed Burr with a 3-point lead over Ross among registered voters and a 5-point lead among likely voters.

The CNN/ORC poll was conducted by phone Thursday to Tuesday of 1,009 adults, including 912 registered voters. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO