Trump Steady in NC; Biden Polls Well

| Tom Jensen

PPP’s newest North Carolina poll finds that Donald Trump is holding his ground- at least compared to where he was in the state six weeks ago. Trump leads with 26% to 21% for Ben Carson, 12% for Carly Fiorina, 10% for Marco Rubio, 9% for Ted Cruz, 6% for Mike Huckabee, 5% for Jeb Bush, 4% for John Kasich, and 2% for Chris Christie.  Rounding out the field are Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal at 1%, and Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, and Rand Paul all at less than 1%.

Trump’s 26% is almost identical to his 24% standing from mid-August. His 53/36 favorability rating with GOP voters is actually a little bit better than its 47/40 standing from a month ago. The only candidates really showing any momentum in North Carolina compared to our last poll are Carson whose support has increased 7 points from 14% to its current 21% standing and Fiorina who’s gone up 6 points from 6% to her current 12% standing. With a 70/17 favorability rating Carson is easily the most popular of the GOP hopefuls in the state, and he’s also the most frequent second choice with 16% saying he’d be their back up option.

Ranking second both for most favorable honors and for most frequent second choice honors is Rubio. 63% of GOP voters have a positive opinion of him to only 19% with a negative one, and 15% say he’s their second choice. The only other Republican in double digits when it comes to second choice is Fiorina at 12% and her 58/23 favorability rating puts her near the top of the heap on that front as well.

2 candidates have noticeably headed in the wrong direction in North Carolina over the last month. Jeb Bush has gone from being in third place at 13% to being in seventh place at 5%. It wasn’t that long ago- June- that Bush actually led the Republican field in North Carolina. Most concerning for Bush might be that not only are voters not supporting him, but they don’t even like him- just 34% have a favorable opinion of him to 47% with a negative one. Voters on the right are especially distrustful of him- among those identifying themselves as ‘very conservative,’ just 25% see him favorably to 55% with an unfavorable opinion. 

In June Rand Paul was polling at 12% in North Carolina. By July, that was down to 7%. In August that was down to 3%. And now he has so little support that it rounds down to 0- he does have a few supporters, but it’s not enough to even round up to 1%. The basement level showing for Paul is similar to what we’ve found a lot of other places recently.

It’s safe to say Ben Carson and Donald Trump’s recent comments about Islam aren’t going to hurt them too much with their base of supporters. 44% of Carson voters think Islam should be illegal in the United States, to only 38% who think it should be legal. And with Trump voters the numbers are even more extreme- 52% think Islam should be illegal to just 31% that believe it should be allowed. Republican voters in the state as a whole are evenly divided with 40% thinking the practice of Islam should be legal and 40% thinking it should not.

Given those numbers it’s not surprising that on the more narrow issue of whether a Muslim should be allowed to serve as President, only 16% of Republicans say yes to 72% who say no. And this all feeds into a broader concern that President Obama is waging a war on Christianity- 72% express that sentiment to only 20% who disagree with it.

On the Democratic side, North Carolina appears to be a pretty strong state for Joe Biden. Hillary Clinton leads with 37% but Biden’s at 30% to 17% for Bernie Sanders, 3% for Jim Webb, 2% for Lincoln Chafee, and 1% for Martin O’Malley. The North Carolina data reaffirms previous findings that a Biden entry would hurt Clinton a lot more than Sanders- 46% of Biden voters say Clinton’s their second choice to just 21% who say it’s Sanders. Reallocate Biden voters to their second choice and Clinton would lead Sanders 51/23, tighter than her 55/19 advantage a month ago but still not terribly competitive.

Conservative Democrats are still a thing in North Carolina- 20% of the party’s electorate- and it’s them who are making Biden so competitive in the state. He gets 40% to just 14% for Clinton and 8% for Sanders. When you look at the race just among liberals and moderates, Clinton has a much more comfortable lead with 42% to 28% for Biden and 19% for Sanders.

Sanders continues not to do that well in the South. The race is relatively close three ways when you look just at white voters- 31% for Clinton to 26% for Biden and 23% for Sanders. But Clinton (47%) and Biden (34%) are far stronger with African Americans than Sanders (8%) and that leaves him in a distant third place in the state overall. 

Republicans are leading Clinton across the board in the general election match ups in the state now. The strongest ones are Carson (51/41) and Rubio (50/40) who each lead Clinton by 10 points. They’re followed by Huckabee and Fiorina who lead Clinton by identical 7 point margins at 48/41. Bush (46/41) and Trump (47/42) each lead Clinton by 5. The closest match ups are with Kasich who leads her by 4 at 44/40 and Cruz who leads her by 3 at 46/43.

Biden at this point does an average of 7 points better than Clinton in head to head match ups with the Republicans we tested him against. He actually leads Bush by 5 at 47/42 and ties Trump at 45/45. He trails Fiorina (45/44) and Carson (47/44) by narrow margins but at least comes a lot closer to them than Clinton. Sanders performs similarly to Clinton, doing on average a point worse than Clinton in match ups against the quartet of Bush/Carson/Fiorina/Trump.

Full results here

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