Challenger Harvey B. Gantt has opened up a lead of 49 percent to 41 percent over incumbent Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., according to a poll published in today's editions of the Charlotte Observer.
The telephone poll of 596 likely voters was taken Monday through Thursday by KPC Research of Charlotte, which also conducts The Sun Poll in Maryland. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Most earlier polls -- including polls conducted two to four weeks ago for the Charlotte Observer, the Greensboro News & Record and the Raleigh News and Observer -- showed Mr. Helms and Mr. Gantt in exact or virtual ties. But a new poll released Wednesday, conducted by Hickman-Maslin Research for the National Abortion Rights Action League, showed Mr. Gantt ahead by 47 percent to 43 percent.
Mr. Helms, the controversial and conservative Republican, was narrowly re-elected six years ago over another liberal Democrat, James Hunt.
Mr. Gantt, a former mayor of Charlotte who is black, recorded nearly unanimous support among black voters. Mr. Helms leads 48 percent to 42 percent among whites. Besides solid black support, the challenger appeared to be benefiting from anger at congressional incumbents. One-third of the voters polled said they agreed with the statement, "I'm so fed up with Congress that I'm going to vote against incumbents like Jesse Helms."