Trump Getting Stronger in NC; Islamophobia Helps Fuel That Strength

| Tom Jensen

PPP’s new North Carolina poll finds Donald Trump at his highest level of support in the state yet. He’s at 33% to 16% for Ted Cruz, 14% each for Ben Carson and Marco Rubio, 5% for Jeb Bush, 4% for Chris Christie, 3% for John Kasich, 2% each for Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul, 1% each for Lindsey Graham and Rick Santorum, and less than 1% each for Jim Gilmore and George Pataki. 

When Trump led in our July North Carolina poll it was the first poll to find him leading the GOP pack anywhere in the country. Since then he’s increased his support in every poll- from that 16% starting point in July he went to 24% in August, 26% in September, 31% in October, and now this 33% standing in December. Trump is also broadly popular with Republicans in the Tar Heel state- his 63/26 favorability rating puts him behind only Carson (64/23) and is improved from 52/35 on our last poll.

Trump’s Islamophobia is a central feature of his appeal to his supporters:

-67% of his voters support a national database of Muslims in the United States, to only 14% opposed to it.

-62% believe his claims that thousands of Arabs cheered in New Jersey when the World Trade Center collapsed, to only 15% who don’t believe that.

-51% want to see the Mosques in the country shut down, to only 16% against that.

-And only 24% of Trump supporters in the state even think Islam should be legal at all in the United States, to 44% who think it shouldn’t be.

Although these ideas are certainly most commonly held by Trump supporters, they’re not unique within the North Carolina GOP base:

-Overall 48% want a national database of Muslims to 33% who are opposed. Ted Cruz’s (43/31) and Marco Rubio’s supporters (38/36) join Trump’s in their support for that idea while Carson’s (34/51) are opposed.

-Overall 42% think thousands of Arabs cheered in New Jersey on 9/11 to 26% who don’t think that happened. Cruz supporters (47/12) and Carson supporters narrowly (27/22) agree with Trump’s that that happened while Rubio’s (31/45) don’t think it did.

-Overall 35% want to shut down the mosques in the United States to 33% who are opposed. Cruz supporters (41/28) again join Trump’s in supporting that while Carson’s (26/34) and Rubio’s (29/45) are opposed.  

-GOP voters as a whole (41/32) do at least think Islam should be legal in the United States. Trump’s the only major candidate whose supporters are against that- Cruz’s (37/30), Carson’s (52/27), and Rubio’s (52/16) all think Islam should be allowed.

The candidate with the most momentum in North Carolina compared to our previous poll is Ted Cruz. He’s gone from a tie for 4th place at 6% in October all the way up to 2nd place at 16% now. He’s also seen his favorability spike from 51/27 to 61/26. Cruz is the most frequent second choice of voters in the state at 18% to 14% for Carson, 12% for Rubio, and 11% for Trump. If Trump does ever fade Cruz is likely to be the greatest beneficiary- he’s the second choice of 22% of Trump supporters to 17% for Carson and 12% for Rubio. 

Rubio’s the only other candidate gaining support in the state- he’s gone from 11% to 14%. His favorability numbers are pretty stable at 56/26 following a 55/23 standing on our previous poll.

The candidate most headed in the wrong direction is Ben Carson. He’s dropped 9 points from 23% and a clear second place to 14% and a tie for third place. When you factor in second choices he’s gone from being the first or second choice of 46% of North Carolina Republicans down to only 28%. And even though his 64/23 favorability is still the best in the state, it’s down from 71/17 in October. Also headed the wrong way is Jeb Bush. He is in 5th place at 5% but more concerning for him is a 31/48 favorability rating. GOP voters in the state simply don’t like him.

As conservative as the GOP base in North Carolina may be on some issues, the rank and file overwhelmingly supports some of the gun legislation its Presidential candidates and leaders in Washington have rejected. 86% favor barring people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing a fire arm, to only 8% who oppose that. And 83% support criminal background checks on all gun purchases, to just 10% against that concept.

Things are stable on the Democratic side in North Carolina. Hillary Clinton leads with 60% to 21% for Bernie Sanders and 10% for Martin O’Malley. Clinton led by a similar 61/24 margin on our last poll in the state. If there’s a momentum candidate it’s O’Malley, whose support has doubled from 5% to 10%.

African Americans are the key to Clinton’s dominance in the state. She polls at 79% with them to 9% for Sanders and 7% for O’Malley. Clinton’s 49/27 lead over Sanders with white voters isn’t all that different from the national picture- it’s Clinton’s overwhelming dominance with black voters and their prevalence in the North Carolina electorate that makes her such a strong front runner in the state. Those numbers don’t bode particularly well for Sanders in other southern states either. Beyond leading across the board racially Clinton also leads with liberals, moderates, men, women, older voters, and younger voters alike among North Carolina Democrats.

Republicans continue to have a modest edge when it comes to the general election in North Carolina. Clinton ties Jeb Bush at 43 but trails the rest of the GOP field. The strongest Republican against her is Ben Carson who leads by 6 at 47/41, followed by Ted Cruz (47/43), Donald Trump (also 47/43), and Marco Rubio (46/42) who each lead her by 4, and Carly Fiorina who leads her by 2 at 44/42. Bernie Sanders does better than Clinton against some of the Republicans and worse against others but on average comes out doing about the same. He ties Fiorina at 40, trails Cruz (44/42) and Trump (46/44) each by 2, trails Bush by 3 at 42/39, trails Rubio by 5 at 44/39, and trails Carson by 9 at 46/37.

Full results here

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