PPP: North Carolinians Not Fans Of House Bill 2

North Carolina is getting a bad rap around the country (and the world) for passing House Bill 2.

But while the state may support the law, the state’s residents think differently.

That’s the finding of Public Policy Polling‘s latest survey of North Carolina voters, released earlier this week. Only 36 percent of North Carolinians say they support HB2, while 45 percent say they’re opposed. Predictably, this splits along party lines – Democrats are against it by a 63-20 margin, while Republicans are in favor by a 56-24 margin. (Independent voters oppose the bill by a 46-33 margin, mirroring the state as a whole.)

But PPP director Tom Jensen says even those partisan numbers are striking: up until recently, he says, Republicans had been more united in their opposition to LGBT rights than Democrats were in their support – that was the case in the Amendment 1 debate, for instance – but that now appears to have changed.

Get more numbers from PPP’s House Bill 2 survey.

Voters also generally agree that House Bill 2’s effects have been generally negative. Only 37 percent say it has made the state safer (44 percent say it hasn’t); only 22 percent say the bill has helped improve North Carolina’s national reputation; and only 11 percent of North Carolinians think the bill is having a positive impact on the state’s economy. (To put that last number into perspective, 12 percent of North Carolinians in the same survey said they disapprove of Harriet Tubman.)

Tom Jensen spoke this week with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


Jensen says the HB2 debate is also affecting other races on the 2016 ballot. The gubernatorial race hasn’t changed much – Republican Pat McCrory and Democrat Roy Cooper are still in a statistical tie – but Cooper now leads McCrory for the first time in three months (though only by a single point, 43-42). Democrats lead Republicans on a generic General Assembly ballot, 45-42 – not nearly enough to retake the majority, but possibly enough to overcome the GOP’s veto-proof majority in both houses of the state legislature.

House Bill 2 is a state issue, but Jensen says the race for U.S. Senate is also tightening: Republican incumbent Richard Burr now leads Democratic challenger Deborah Ross by only four points, 40-36. (Ross is still an unknown quantity among North Carolinians: 65 percent of voters still have no opinion of her either way. Remarkably, this means there are more North Carolinians who say they want Ross to be their Senator than there are who say they’ve formed an opinion about her.)

And North Carolina is still likely to be a battleground state in the presidential race. In hypothetical matchups, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tied 44-44, and Clinton leads Ted Cruz 45-40. (This isn’t the only state where Cruz is less popular than Trump: that wasn’t the case anywhere until recently, but Jensen says it’s a growing trend.) Should Bernie Sanders pull out the Democratic nomination, he polls three points better than Clinton: Sanders leads Trump 46-43 and Cruz 46-38.

Get more numbers from PPP’s survey of national races here.

Finally, on the U.S. Treasury’s recent decision to put Harriet Tubman on the 20-dollar bill in place of Andrew Jackson: a majority of North Carolinians approve of both Tubman (60%) and Jackson (51%), but more North Carolinians would prefer Jackson stay on the 20 by a 44-39 margin.

(That number, though, is skewed by one particular demographic: voters who approve of Donald Trump. Trump supporters prefer Jackson to Tubman, 75-13.)


PPP: Expect Clinton, Trump Wins In NY

In the race for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations, Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz have won most of the latest primaries, but the momentum may be about to swing back to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – at least for the rest of this month.

That’s the word from Public Policy Polling, which just released numbers from its latest survey of voters in New York. (The New York presidential primary is Tuesday.)

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders by 11 points, 51-40. PPP director Tom Jensen says the Clinton/Sanders race has actually remained fairly consistent from the beginning: Clinton leads Sanders among African-American voters and registered Democrats; Sanders leads among independents and younger voters. Sanders has won most of the recent primaries primarily because they’ve been open primaries – where independents are able to vote – in states with small African-American populations. The New York primary is closed, though – open only to registered Democrats, that is – which favors Clinton. (Jensen says that’s also the case for most of the remaining primaries this month – so Clinton also stands to make gains next Tuesday, the 26th, when voters head to the polls in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island.)

Get the full results of PPP’s New York survey.

On the GOP side, Donald Trump stands to win big in New York: he’s pulling 51 percent of Republican voters, with John Kasich (25 percent) and Ted Cruz (20 percent) trailing way behind. Jensen says New York is a perfect storm for Trump for several reasons: it’s his home state, for one, and there’s no clear second-place candidate, making it more difficult for anti-Trump voters to consolidate around either Cruz or Kasich. Cruz is at a particular disadvantage too: his base consists of evangelical voters, and there aren’t many of those in New York – on top of which, New York Republicans were turned off by his disparaging remarks about Trump’s “New York values” earlier this year.

PPP director Tom Jensen discussed the New York primary – and the upcoming primaries later in April – with Aaron Keck on WCHL.


More numbers from PPP’s New York survey here.


PPP: Prez Race Momentum Could Shift Back To Trump, Clinton

In the 2016 race for president, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have the edge in delegate counts, but Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders seem to have the momentum. Cruz and Sanders both scored decisive victories in Wisconsin earlier this week – and Sanders also won Saturday’s Wyoming caucus, giving him eight wins over Clinton in the last nine states.

But while Cruz and Sanders have been performing well, Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen says he expects the momentum to shift back to the frontrunners for at least the rest of this month.

That’s because the rest of the April primaries are taking place in Northeastern states: New York on Tuesday, April 19; Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island the following Tuesday, April 26. On the GOP side, the Northeast is Trump’s wheelhouse: he’s a New Yorker, which gives him an automatic edge, and Cruz’s evangelical appeal doesn’t play as well to Republicans in that region. On the Democratic side, both Clinton and Sanders can claim New York roots, but Clinton’s been polling better in the area. Also, nearly all of those April primaries are “closed” primaries – open only to registered Democrats, that is – and that favors Clinton, who consistently outpolls Sanders among registered Democrats. (Sanders outpolls Clinton among independents, so he benefits from “open” primaries where independents can vote as well.)

Get the full state-by-state primary calendar here.

Where do things stand nationally? Jensen says Clinton is still likely to end up winning the Democratic nomination, even though Sanders has been closing the gap – and on the Republican side, Trump will likely head into the July convention with a lead in the delegate count, but Cruz’s recent wins make it increasingly unlikely that Trump will be able to rack up enough delegates to avoid a contested convention.

Tom Jensen spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck this week.


PPP: House Bill 2 Will Have Big Impact in November Election

North Carolina politics has been in the spotlight over the last week with the passing of House Bill 2.

The North Carolina General Assembly called a special session last Wednesday to pass House Bill 2, which GOP leadership referred to as “common sense” legislation and LGBT advocates called “the worst anti-LGBT legislation in the nation.”

The bill overturned a Charlotte decision to extend the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to the LGBT community.

Leadership in the legislature quickly said they would consider a special session to repeal the ordinance.

Tom Jensen, Public Policy Polling director, said a survey conducted before the session was called showed that would be an unpopular move among those surveyed.

“Definitely a situation where we found very limited support for the General Assembly, kind of, getting involved in Charlotte’s business,” Jensen said.

The survey showed 25 percent of voters thought the General Assembly should override Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance, in the poll taken before the special session was called. The thought that the ordinance should be left as-is went across party lines with Democrats (58/17), Independents (48/21) and Republicans (45/38).

The legislation passed in a hurried session that began with the bill being made public around 10 o’clock Wednesday morning and was signed into law less than 12 hours later.

Reaction came in quickly from many high-profile businesses in North Carolina opposing the legislation and Jensen provided a fairly straightforward explanation of House Bill 2’s impact in the November election, saying, “It’ll be big.”

In those fall general elections, Jensen said a common theme is continuing among North Carolinians.

“We’re just an incredibly divided state,” Jensen said. “And when it comes to all of these key statewide offices, we’re seeing very tight contests right now.”

The race for Governor in North Carolina is expected to be one of the closest, and most expensive, races in the country in November. Jensen said the incumbent Pat McCrory had a two-point lead over Attorney General Roy Cooper in the race for the governor’s mansion in the first poll since the primary election, which was conducted before the passing of House Bill 2.

Jensen said McCrory does lead Cooper, even though McCrory’s approval rating continues to be low with 40 percent of those surveyed approving of the job McCrory has done and 49 percent disapproving.

“Voters are open to replacing Pat McCrory because they don’t like him very much,” Jensen said. “But they don’t know Cooper well enough yet to know if they think that he’s a better alternative. So, that’s what we’ll figure out over the next seven and a half months.”

Facts And Myths (That McCrory Forgot) About House Bill 2

Jensen said races for Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and Treasurer in the Tar Heel state are all within three points among the general election candidates, exemplifying the polarization among North Carolinians.

One out-of-state factor that could influence North Carolina elections is who is at the top of the ticket on the November ballot.

Jensen said that if Donald Trump wins the GOP nomination and Republican incumbent Richard Burr supports Trump, then that will have a negative impact on Burr’s electability.

“That makes voters less inclined to vote for him by a 26-point spread,” Jensen said. “Forty-eight percent of voters in the state say that they’re less likely to vote for Burr if he supports Trump, only 22 percent say that they’re more likely to vote for him.”

One thing that is obvious in the results is that the November election will be a close, expensive and influential race at nearly ever level in the Tar Heel state.

See the full results from the PPP survey here.


PPP: Trump Holds 11 Point Lead Over Cruz in NC

Donald Trump is up 11 points over Ted Cruz just ahead of the North Carolina primary on Tuesday, according to the latest survey from Public Policy Polling.

The numbers were released late Sunday night and show strong gains for Trump, 15 points, and Cruz, 14 points, over the last month.

Those increases are attributed to some candidates dropping out of the race and support for Marco Rubio falling nine points to four percent.

Meanwhile, Ohio Governor John Kasich has remained steady at 11 percent.

In a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, Trump still leads Cruz but the margin falls to 49/43.

While Cruz would stand to benefit from Rubio and Kasich supporters immigrating to his camp, Trump has the most committed supporters with 89 percent saying they will “definitely cast their ballots for him.”

The survey showed Hillary Clinton maintaining a 19 point lead over Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination at 56/37 in North Carolina, which would be similar to how neighboring states have voted. Clinton has built up a 68/29 lead among respondents who had early voted, with a much tighter margin remaining for those who said they would be voting on Election Day.

Clinton, Sanders, Trump and Cruz have all made recent campaign stops in the Tar Heel state.

In other races, both Richard Burr and Deborah Ross appear to be set to cruise to victories and meet in the general election for US Senate in November.

Burr, the incumbent Republican, has a 28 point lead over Greg Brannon with the two other challengers polling at less than five percent.

Ross, meanwhile, has a commanding 32 point lead over Ernest Reeves and Chris Rey with Kevin Griffin bringing up the tail end of the pack.

It appears the leading candidates for Governor will also have large victories on Tuesday. Incumbent Republican Pat McCrory has a 63 point lead over his closest challenger. Attorney General Roy Cooper has a 53/17 lead over Ken Spaulding to represent the Democrats on the gubernatorial ticket. Cooper has a 68/22 lead over Spaulding among early voters.

PPP says the seemingly-locked-in McCrory/Cooper race for the governor’s mansion is “likely to be the premier Governor’s race in the country this year.”

Democratic primary voters supported the Connect NC bond 67/18, but Republican voters have just a 47/43 favorability rating of the bond.

Early voting closed on Saturday.

Polls will be open across the state from 6:30 Tuesday morning until 7:30 in the evening.

Voters will also be deciding the local races for the Orange County Board of Commissioners because all of the candidates running are Democrats.

According to the Orange County Board of elections, 19,989 voters cast ballots during the early voting period across the county.

WCHL will have live coverage from polls throughout the day and will go with live election coverage beginning at seven o’clock on 97.9 FM/1360 AM WCHL and streaming at chapelboro.com.

PPP director Tom Jensen is scheduled to join WCHL’s coverage.


2016 Election Gets Interesting, Not Really In A Good Way

Notwithstanding all the hullabaloo, the 2016 presidential race on the Democratic side is actually playing out pretty normally. An established party leader with center-left views has been challenged from the left by an underdog candidate – a Senator, not a total outsider, but still an insurgent – who draws in progressives and younger voters and starts polling better than expected. We’ve seen this movie before: Johnson/Kennedy, Gore/Bradley, Clinton/Obama. (Even Hoynes/Bartlet on The West Wing, for that matter.) Eventually one side wins, the candidates make up, and everybody moves on. It’s all good.

The Republicans, on the other hand…

If there was any doubt the GOP was fracturing over the presidential race, those doubts vanished on Thursday as Mitt Romney got up on stage and blasted Donald Trump – after announcing a “major” speech the day before, to make sure everyone was paying attention. Where will things go from here? Romney called for Republican voters to do whatever it takes to keep Trump from clinching the GOP nomination – but even if that strategy works, the best-case scenario is a brokered convention in July, where delegates will bicker and bargain on national TV with no clear outcome. Should Trump win the nomination, many Republican voters will likely abstain; if anyone else wins the nomination, many Trump voters will likely abstain – assuming Trump doesn’t try to run as an independent, which he’s already threatened to do.

And establishment Republicans could even run one of their own as an independent as well – Romney, say – in the event Trump gets the nomination. That would effectively concede the presidential race in the hope that anti-Trump Republicans (who might otherwise just stay home) would show up to vote – and cast ballots not just for President, but for the House and Senate and state races too. (Giving Hillary Clinton the White House in exchange for six more years of Richard Burr, in other words.) Regardless, Republicans in every race are now going to have to decide whether they’re pro-Trump or anti-Trump, and they’re going to severely alienate a lot of their potential base no matter how they answer.

All of which would be fascinating and exciting, if only it didn’t involve a candidate who’s spent the last year pandering to racists, stirring up fear and hatred, bullying and insulting his way through debates, and encouraging his supporters to beat up people who disagree.

What can we expect for the rest of the primary season, especially now that early voting has begun and North Carolinians finally have their crack at the polls? I spoke with Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling, who’s been following the 2016 race as closely as anybody since it all began approximately three hundred years ago.


“End Gerrymandering Now”

See what happens? The General Assembly comes back in session for one week and now we’ve got a Congressman living in somebody else’s district, two different dates for two different primaries, a whole new filing period for an election cycle that began months ago, and a new set of Congressional district lines that resolves almost none of the problems that started this whole fiasco in the first place.

Isn’t it time for North Carolina to end gerrymandering forever?

In case you haven’t been following the saga – or in case all the rapid developments have left you utterly confused – here’s where we are today.

  • Earlier this month, a three-judge panel ruled that state lawmakers had violated the U.S. Constitution when they redrew North Carolina’s Congressional district lines in 2011. Trying to maximize the number of GOP-controlled districts, lawmakers “packed” black voters together into two districts, the 1st and the 12th. That’s a violation of the 15th Amendment, which bans racial discrimination.
  • The judges ordered lawmakers to redraw the district lines before the next election – namely, the March 15 primary. Because the primary was barely a month away, the judges gave lawmakers a two-week deadline: the districts had to be redrawn by February 19.
  • Lawmakers asked the judges for a stay – arguing, in essence, that it would be better to have an unconstitutional election than to go through the chaos of a last-second redraw. (Especially since some voters have already mailed in their absentee ballots.) But the judges said no: unconstitutional elections are unconstitutional elections, and they can’t be allowed to proceed, chaos or no chaos.
  • Lawmakers appealed to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts for a stay. Roberts waited more than a week to respond, but on Friday he denied the appeal. (The full Supreme Court could still decide to hear the case – though that’s not likely – but either way, Roberts’ denial means the lower court ruling must be followed for now.)
  • Facing a rapidly approaching deadline, Governor Pat McCrory called the General Assembly back into session this week for a last-second redraw. After two days of hearings, lawmakers unveiled a new map on Thursday – drawn, this time, by officials who were purposely ignoring racial statistics – and officially approved it on Friday.
  • But the new map does, indeed, create chaos. The 12th district, which used to snake down I-85 from Greensboro to Charlotte, is now just a block of Mecklenburg County, with an entirely different set of voters. Republican Congressman George Holding represents the 13th district, but his home got reassigned to David Price’s district, the heavily Democratic 4th. (Technically Holding could still run in the 13th district – you don’t have to live in the district you represent – but the redrawn 13th is so far away from his home that it actually makes more sense for him to run in the 2nd district, which would pit him in a primary against fellow Republican Renee Ellmers.) Numerous other candidates now no longer live in the districts they’ve been campaigning in – and nearly all the candidates are upset because they’ve wasted time and money trying to win over voters who’ve just been abruptly moved to some other district.
  • And although officials did meet the court’s deadline, lawmakers realized there’s not enough time to print new ballots, re-educate residents, and take care of absentee voters in time for a March 15 primary – so the GA also passed a bill creating a second primary on June 7, just for the U.S. Congressional races. (Congressional candidates will have to re-file for office, beginning on March 16.)
  • Oh, and by the way, all the old Congressional races are still going to be on the March 15 ballot too – just in case the Supreme Court steps in and overturns the lower court between March and June. So have fun with that.


So, to sum up: you now have two primaries to vote in, not just one. There’s a good chance you just got moved to a new district, for the second time in five years. Candidates who’ve already spent thousands of dollars running for office now have to go back to square one and start again. One incumbent who represents District A now lives in District B and is planning to run in District C. Naturally lawmakers blamed the judges for all this, but the court wouldn’t have stepped in at all if the GA hadn’t drawn the map in such a cockamamie way in the first place.

Oh, and there’s almost certainly going to be another lawsuit challenging this map too, so we may have to do this all over again in two years.

Here’s what the old map looked like. Check out that ridiculous 12th district! You could throw a bowling ball in district 8 and it would land in district 5.

NC Congressional District Maps

Here’s the new map, looking better with a revised 12th…but still a crazy-shaped 4th, and a 13th that’s magically leaped from east of Raleigh to west of Greensboro. There are two sitting members of Congress who now live in the 13th, and neither one of them is the guy who actually represents that district.

Proposed Congressional District Map.

Proposed Congressional District Map.


Still with me?

Ready for the best part?

For all the scurrying and last-second maneuvering this week, lawmakers did absolutely nothing to fix the one problem that caused all this chaos in the first place.

In fact they explicitly went out of their way to avoid doing so.

On Friday, while details were still being finalized, I spoke with NC Central School of Law professor (and Carrboro Mayor) Lydia Lavelle. Here’s our conversation.


The issue that started this whole mess is partisan gerrymandering. Why, in 2011, did the General Assembly vote to approve a plan that packed black voters into two districts? Because the GA was controlled by Republicans, and they were trying to create as many Republican-majority districts as possible. This is not speculation: we know this is true because they said it was true. (And Democrats did the same thing when they controlled the GA. We’ve been through this exact same fiasco three decades in a row.)

The 15th Amendment bans racial gerrymandering, but the Constitution doesn’t explicitly forbid states from privileging one party over another – so naturally, just about every state does it. If Party A controls the state legislature, lawmakers draw the district lines to “pack” Party B’s voters together into as few districts as possible. They’re really good at it, too. When Republicans got to redraw North Carolina’s lines after the 2010 census, they packed Democrats together so effectively that in 2012, the GOP won nine of the state’s 13 Congressional seats even though Democrats got more votes overall.

Partisan gerrymandering makes an absolute mockery of democracy. Everybody knows it and everybody freely admits it. But as long as there’s no law against it – and as long as state lawmakers are in charge of drawing their own district lines – they have every incentive to keep doing it, in order to keep themselves and their party in power.

And because partisan lines are often racial lines too – blacks tend to vote Democratic, whites tend to vote Republican – then every time the GOP tries to pack Democrats into one or two districts, they’re going to end up packing black voters into one or two districts as well. Which means more lawsuits, more uncertainty, and more chaos. Every. Single. Time.

(This is true no matter which party controls the process, by the way. Democrats ran the show when the 2000 census came in, and the resulting legal fight didn’t wrap up until 2009.)

Did the GOP learn its lesson? Good Lord, of course not. This week, when the GA asked lawmakers to draw a new map, they also directed those lawmakers to make sure to preserve that 10-3 Republican majority. (Seriously, they took a vote on it and everything.) One Republican this week said he was only supporting a 10-3 GOP majority because there didn’t seem to be a way to make it 11-2. (Seriously, he said that in public.)

This is completely bonkers.

Is there a way to fix it?

Yes, as it turns out. It’s actually really easy: partisan gerrymandering exists because state lawmakers have the power to draw their own district lines – so the way to fix the problem is simply to give that power to somebody else.

There is a proposal on the table to create an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission. Every ten years, after each new census, this commission would be in charge of redrawing the boundaries for North Carolina’s State House, State Senate, and U.S. House districts.

No partisan bias. No inadvertent racial discrimination.

Fourteen other states already do it this way.

In North Carolina, the push for independent redistricting is being led by the NC Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform. Earlier this week, I spoke with the Coalition’s director, Jane Pinsky.


Do North Carolinians support this plan?

Yes, they do. A survey from Public Policy Polling, just released this week, found that 59 percent of North Carolina voters support an independent redistricting commission – compared with only 9 percent who oppose it. Voters across the political spectrum are all in favor: 65 percent of Democrats, 56 percent of independents, and 54 percent of Republicans all approve this plan. (Only 6 percent of Democrats, 12 percent of independents, and 11 percent of Republicans are opposed.)

Just how unpopular is partisan redistricting? Last year, PPP found that more North Carolinians actually approve of man-eating sharks than the current redistricting system.

Okay, so how about state legislators? Do they support this plan?

Yes they do too, as it turns out. Even though it would mean they’d have to give up power, there’s actually fairly strong support for independent redistricting in the General Assembly, among Democrats and Republicans alike. Naturally support for reform is always greater among the minority party – Democrats tend to be more in favor of it today, while Republicans were more supportive back when the Dems were in control. But high-ranking Republicans, including Skip Stam, joined high-ranking Democrats together on the podium last year at a much-ballyhooed press conference to renew the push for redistricting reform – and in 2011 the State House actually approved a reform bill.

How about think tanks? Liberal? Conservative?

Yep, they all support it too. That press conference last year had people together from NC Policy Watch (liberal), the Pope Foundation (conservative) and the John Locke Foundation (conservative/libertarian). All in favor.

So why don’t we have an independent redistricting commission?

This guy:

Photo courtesy of the North Carolina General Assembly

Photo courtesy of the North Carolina General Assembly

This is State Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. He’s in charge of deciding which bills get brought up for a vote on the Senate floor – and he has made it clear that he has no intention of letting the Senate vote on this.

(And after this week? He said he hasn’t changed his mind. But you knew that already.)

So after all that, here’s where we stand: total electoral chaos in North Carolina that’s only just now beginning to subside…two primaries scheduled in the next four months…a completely redrawn Congressional map for the second time this decade…candidates scrambling to file to run in all new districts…the looming prospect of another round of lawsuits…and an easy solution that North Carolinians overwhelmingly want, which lawmakers flatly refuse to consider.

It’s good to see, when it comes to legislative incompetence, Raleigh is still managing to keep pace with Washington.

If you want to know more about the fight to end gerrymandering (partisan, racial, or otherwise) and enact real redistricting reform, visit EndGerrymanderingNow.org.


Americans Split On Politics, Football

Republicans are split three ways on who they favor for President; Democrats still favor Hillary Clinton but by a narrowing margin; and Americans are equally divided on which team they want to win the Super Bowl.

That’s the latest finding by Raleigh-based polling firm Public Policy Polling. PPP released a pair of survey results this week: one on the Super Bowl, with the game just hours away, and another on the presidential race post-Iowa.

PPP director Tom Jensen spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


On the Super Bowl, Americans are split down the middle: 40 percent of Americans are rooting for the Panthers and 40 percent are rooting for the Broncos. (Regardless of who they’re rooting for, 56 percent say they think the Panthers will win.) The 40/40 split masks an interesting racial and generational divide, though: white people (46-34) and senior citizens (55-28) tend to support the Broncos, while nonwhites (53-26) and Americans under 45 (46-31) are rooting for the Panthers.

Is that a Cam Newton thing? Possibly, says PPP director Tom Jensen: Newton’s favorability rating is 81 percent with nonwhite voters, but only 46 percent with whites – and only 48 percent of Republicans say they approve of Newton, while 79 percent say they approve of Broncos QB Peyton Manning. (On the other hand, only 24 percent of Republicans actually disapprove of Newton – numbers that any politician would kill for.)

More numbers from PPP’s Super Bowl survey here.

When it comes to politics, PPP finds Donald Trump’s support has taken a big hit in the wake of his second-place finish in the Iowa caucus. He still leads all GOP candidates, but his support has dropped from 34 percent in December to 25 percent today. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio trail just behind Trump with 21 percent each. (That represents a major bump for Rubio, who only polled 13 percent last month. Cruz, who actually won the Iowa caucus, hasn’t seen his support level or favorability rating change much at all.) Jensen says Rubio has the clear momentum heading deeper into primary season: he actually leads Trump and Cruz in head-to-head matchups, so he’s poised to benefit the most as other candidates begin dropping out. (On the other hand, Jensen says Trump still has one key number in his favor: while 50 percent of GOP voters say they’re still open to changing their minds about whom to support, 71 percent of Trump supporters say they’re locked in. That’s a far stronger base of support than Cruz and Rubio enjoy.)

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders is almost certain to win the New Hampshire primary next week, but Hillary Clinton still has a 21-point lead nationally, 53-32. Sanders is still closing the gap – he trailed Clinton by 28 points in December – but Jensen says he’s still struggling to win over black voters, who support Clinton by an 82-8 margin. That won’t matter much in lily-white New Hampshire, but it will make it much harder for Sanders to win states like Nevada or South Carolina, which are up next on the primary calendar.

More numbers from PPP’s presidential primary survey here.


PPP: Trump, Clinton Lead Iowa, But Nothing Is Certain

Monday is caucus day in Iowa, marking the official start of the 2016 presidential election. Who will win?

According to Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling, who surveyed Iowa voters last week, both the Democratic and Republican races are still too close to call.

On the GOP side, Donald Trump leads Ted Cruz 31 percent to 23 percent, with Marco Rubio a distant third at 14 percent. Trump’s eight-point lead is slightly higher than it was when PPP last polled the state in December – possibly because Trump has recently made an issue of Cruz’s Canadian birth, and the issue seems to be resonating. (A majority of Iowa Republicans believe the president should have to be a US-born citizen.)

But PPP’s survey indicates the Iowa race is far from over: 31 percent of Iowa Republicans say they still could change their minds. In addition, GOP voters who support the ‘lesser’ candidates (Huckabee, Fiorina, Bush, etc) tend to prefer Rubio over Cruz and Cruz over Trump. That means the race could become extremely close if GOP voters decide to vote strategically, casting their ballot for one of the top candidates rather than ‘wasting’ their vote on a candidate with no chance of winning.

It’s a similar story on the Democratic side. PPP’s survey finds Hillary Clinton still with a narrow lead over Bernie Sanders, 48-40, with Martin O’Malley trailing far behind at 7 percent. That 7 percent could be critical, though. Iowa caucus rules dictate that when a candidate doesn’t reach 15 percent at a caucus site, their supporters ‘move’ to one of the remaining candidates – and O’Malley supporters favor Sanders over Clinton by a 57-27 margin. (PPP director Tom Jensen says that makes perfect sense: both Sanders and O’Malley are trying to appeal to the ‘anti-Hillary’ vote.)

Ultimately, though, the Democratic race will come down to turnout. Clinton leads Sanders by a wide margin among registered Democrats, but Sanders leads Clinton by an even wider margin among independent voters – so if more independents than expected turn out for the Democratic caucus, Sanders has a better chance of winning.

Tom Jensen discussed the PPP survey and the Iowa caucus with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


Get the results of PPP’s survey of Iowa Republicans.

Get the results of PPP’s survey of Iowa Democrats.


What Is To Be Gun?

President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night. Earlier in the day, WCHL’s Aaron Keck was joined on air by Orange County Republican Ashley DeSena…but rather than trying to dissect a speech they hadn’t heard yet, they discussed the President’s most recent major address, last week’s speech announcing new executive actions on guns. (Obama’s 10-point plan includes expanded background checks, more funding for mental health care, the hiring of more law enforcement to help enforce existing laws, and – to reduce the risk of accidental shootings – federal research into “smart gun” technology.)

Listen to their conversation. (Both generally agree with the basic outline of the plan, though DeSena expresses concern over some vaguely defined provisions and Keck notes that the US crime rate is already historically low.)


Gun control wasn’t a major issue in President Obama’s State of the Union, as it turned out, but it’s still on a lot of people’s minds. A recent Public Policy Polling survey found that 20 percent of GOP primary voters in New Hampshire say they believe the president is “going to take all Americans’ guns away during his final year in office.” (The same survey, incidentally, found Donald Trump with a 14-point lead in the GOP presidential race in New Hampshire – and on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton with a three-point lead over Bernie Sanders.)

Last week, Aaron Keck discussed the New Hampshire poll with PPP director Tom Jensen.