Trump Keeps Gaining in NC; Clinton Maintains Huge Lead

| Tom Jensen

North Carolina was the first place polling ever found Donald Trump leading the Republican Presidential race, and he just keeps getting stronger. PPP’s newest poll finds him at 38% to 16% for Ted Cruz, 11% for Marco Rubio, 8% for Ben Carson, 6% each for Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush, 4% for Chris Christie, 3% each for Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul, 2% for John Kasich, and 1% for Rick Santorum.

Trump’s support is up 5 points from a month ago when he was at 33%. The only other candidate who’s seen a real gain in their support is Huckabee, who’s climbed from 2% to 6%. The main hopeful dropping is Ben Carson, who’s fallen from 14% to 8%. Besides Carson the only person to see their support decline by more than a point is Marco Rubio, who’s dropped 3 points from 14% to 11%.

Perhaps the most striking finding from this poll is that not only does Trump lead the GOP field, he also has the highest favorability rating of any of the candidates in it. 62% see him favorably to 30% with a negative opinion. No one else has over a 60% favorability- Huckabee comes closest at 58/21. Trump also has the most committed supporters- 65% say they will definitely vote for him compared to 54% for Rubio, 50% for Cruz, 38% for Huckabee, and 33% each for Bush and Carson among the top candidates in the state. 

By the time North Carolina votes the field is likely to have contracted to a smaller number of candidates. We find everywhere that a smaller field would reduce Trump’s advantage, and that’s true in North Carolina as well, but he’s up by so much right now that it still leaves him with a comfortable lead. In a 4 way field Trump would get 41% to 24% for Cruz, 15% for Rubio, and 13% for Bush. In a 3 way field Trump would get 43% to 27% for Cruz, and 18% for Rubio. In heads to heads Trump leads Cruz 49/41, Rubio 52/37, and Bush 59/29. So while Trump wouldn’t keep his existing 22 point advantage as other candidates drop out and their supporters move to candidates besides him, he does remain the favorite in all those scenarios.

Cruz does continue to be well positioned as the next in line should Trump falter. He’s the most frequent second choice of GOP voters in the state with 18% to 12% for Rubio, and 11% for Trump. And specifically among Trump voters 25% say Cruz is their second choice to 13% for Carson with no one else in double digits. His birthplace does appear to be somewhat of an issue though. 53% of GOP primary voters say someone born in another country should not be allowed to serve as President, to only 28% who say they’re alright with that. Among that group that doesn’t think someone foreign born should be allowed to hold the office, Trump leads Cruz 52-4. And there’s still relatively limited awareness of Cruz’s birthplace- just 49% know he was born outside the country to 27% who think he was born in the US and 25% who aren’t sure one way or another about it. Cruz’s favorability has dropped from 61/26 to 55/28 in North Carolina over the last month. 

Trump and Cruz are very closely matched among voters on the right, with Trump getting 30% among ‘very conservative’ voters to 27% for Cruz. But Trump thumps Cruz with ‘somewhat conservative’ voters (42/15) and especially with moderates (43/2). Beyond that Trump’s support is very steady with the key groups we track- he’s at 39% with women, 39% with younger voters, 37% with men, and 35% with seniors.

On the Democratic side Hillary Clinton remains dominant with 59% t0 26% for Bernie Sanders, and 5% for Martin O’Malley. The North Carolina numbers speak to the demographic advantages that may cause things to work out fine for Clinton even if she does struggle in Iowa and New Hampshire. Among African Americans, which are about a third of the primary electorate in North Carolina, Clinton leads Sanders 77/12 with O’Malley getting 2%. Clinton’s favorability with black voters is 81/11, compared to 43/20 for Sanders. That overwhelming advantage with black voters should make the South a very strong region for Clinton as the race moves to its states. Clinton is also benefiting from having much more committed support- 78% of her supporters say they are definitely going to vote for her, compared to 50% of Sanders’ who say the same.

Republicans are favored for the general election in North Carolina, although the match ups are close. Marco Rubio does the best against Hillary Clinton, leading her by 5 at 47/42. Carson leads Clinton 47/44, Cruz leads her 46/43, and Bush and Trump each have 45/43 advantages. The GOP field all leads Bernie Sanders as well- it’s a 43/38 advantage for Cruz, 44/40 for Carson, 43/39 for Rubio, 45/43 for Trump, and 42/41 for Bush.

We also tested a quartet of possible independent candidates- 2 serious ones, 2 not so serious ones- and found that they all get between 7-10%. That suggests that despite the unpopularity of both Clinton and Trump, there really isn’t that much of a desire for a third party candidate at this point. Michael Bloomberg and Deez Nuts both get 10% as independent candidates- Trump leads Clinton 41/40 and 43/39 respectively in match ups where they’re included. And Jim Webb and Bug the Cat each get 7% as independent candidates- Trump leads Clinton 42/40 and 45/41 respectively when those are the independents included.

Full results here

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