By Colleen Jenkins
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Sept 15 (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Kay Hagan is leading her Republican challenger among likely voters in North Carolina, two polls showed on Monday, the latest shift in a race that could help decide which party controls the chamber.
Hagan was ahead 43 percent to 34 percent, a 9-point lead, in a survey conducted this month after the vulnerable Democrat's first debate with state House Speaker Thom Tillis, according to Republican polling firm American Insights.
Hagan netted more support from women, men and independent voters before the November election, while Tillis did better with white voters and North Carolina natives, the pollsters said.
"After being deadlocked for most of the year, the race has unmistakably shifted towards Senator Hagan in recent days," said Pearce Godwin, director of American Insights. "This poll is a continuation and affirmation of the very recent trend in Sen. Hagan's direction."
The poll of 459 likely voters, conducted from Sept. 5-10, had a margin of error of 4.6 percentage points.
As Democrats try to maintain their control of the U.S. Senate, Hagan is seeking a second six-year term in a swing state that Democrat Barack Obama took when he won the 2008 U.S. presidential election but that Republican Mitt Romney won in his 2012 bid to oust Obama.
A new survey by Elon University showed she had opened a smaller lead - 45 percent to 41 percent - over Tillis among likely voters.
Her lead in that poll, conducted Sept. 5-9, was within the margin of error of 3.91 percentage points.
Women and African-American voters favored Hagan, and men and white voters showed higher support for Tillis.
Hagan's disapproval rating among likely voters remained high at 51 percent, according to the poll. But voters were more displeased with the state legislature, which Tillis helps lead, with 54 percent disapproving of its performance. (Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Doina Chiacu)