Latest PPP Survey: Most GOP Voters Are Still “Birthers”

Barack Obama is a US-born Christian, not a foreign-born Muslim. But even today, a majority of Republican voters say they believe otherwise.

That’s the result of the latest national survey from Public Policy Polling. According to the poll, 54 percent of GOP voters still think President Obama is a Muslim, and only 29 percent are willing to say Obama was born in the U.S.

(To put that into perspective, 40 percent of GOP voters say Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz was born in the United States. Cruz was definitely born in Canada, by all accounts including his own.)

Donald Trump supporters are even more likely to hold those views than GOP voters as a whole. 66 percent of Trump voters say President Obama is a Muslim; 61 percent say they don’t think he was born in the U.S. (PPP director Tom Jensen says these responses may come from voters treating these factual questions as if they were opinion questions: “I know he was born in Hawaii, but I feel like he’s not really an American.”)

Get the full results from the survey here.

But on other points, GOP voters aren’t nearly as conservative as they’re often depicted. The vast majority – 78 percent – support requiring criminal background checks for firearm purchases. And 49 percent support an increase in the federal minimum wage, against a combined 47 percent who either want to keep it level, reduce it or eliminate it.

In the race for the GOP presidential nomination, Donald Trump still leads his competitors by a wide margin with 29 percent of the vote. In second place with 15 percent is the other ‘outsider’ candidate, Ben Carson; Jeb Bush is a distant third with 9 percent, followed by Carly Fiorina at 8 percent. Carson may have an edge as we draw closer to the actual primaries, though: he’s the most popular candidate in the field with a 68 percent popularity rating, and he’s also the most common second choice among GOP voters – so as candidates gradually drop out of the race, Carson could see his vote share rapidly increase.

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


The poll also showed Hillary Clinton maintaining a big lead in the race for the Democratic nomination: she gets 55 percent of the vote, compared to 20 percent for Bernie Sanders. (Clinton also led Sanders by 35 points in PPP’s July national survey.)

PPP: Donald Trumps GOP Challengers In NH

Is Donald Trump going away? Not yet.

Public Policy Polling‘s latest survey finds Trump expanding his lead in the race for the GOP nomination, at least in New Hampshire: 35 percent of Republican voters there say they’ll support Trump in the primary, with John Kasich coming in a distant second at 11 percent and Carly Fiorina (10 percent) the only other challenger in double digits.

(A sign of just how topsy-turvy the GOP race has been: when PPP last surveyed New Hampshire in April, neither Trump, Kasich nor Fiorina were even on their list of possible candidates.)

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders is widening his lead in the Granite State over Hillary Clinton: he now leads her 43-35 among Democratic voters, and both candidates fare equally well in hypothetical general-election matchups against the leading Republicans. (And both candidates fare quite well in those matchups: the races are close, but PPP director Tom Jensen says Sanders and Clinton lead every possible GOP candidate except Kasich.)

Tom Jensen of PPP spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck on Wednesday.


See the full numbers from PPP’s New Hampshire survey.

Yes, It’s Come To This: Trump, Nuts Gain Momentum In Prez Race

Donald Trump has momentum in North Carolina, and so does Deez Nuts.

That’s according to the latest Public Policy Polling survey of North Carolina voters. Trump now has a double-digit lead over his closest opponents in the race for the GOP presidential nomination: he’s at 24 percent, with Ben Carson in second at 14 percent and Jeb Bush in third with 13 percent. Of the 17 candidates in the race, Trump and Carson – the only two candidates with no experience in elective office – were the two candidates with the biggest gains over last month.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton continues to have a wide lead: she’s at 55 percent, with second-place Bernie Sanders well behind at 19 percent. One bit of good news for Sanders: Clinton supporters have long argued that Clinton is more ‘electable,’ but Sanders matches up almost as well as Clinton against their hypothetical Republican opponents. (The downside is that both Clinton and Sanders trail most of those opponents – including Trump  – albeit by very slim margins. Ben Carson is the only candidate whose lead is above the margin of error.)

Visit for all the results of their NC survey.

The numbers also suggest we should expect close races for governor and U.S. Senator next year too. Democratic attorney general Roy Cooper leads incumbent Republican governor Pat McCrory by three points, 42-39; that’s the third month in a row that PPP has found Cooper with a slight lead. PPP’s Jim Williams says McCrory tends to poll worse when the General Assembly is in session, but (in spite of their ongoing conflicts) voters seem to be lumping McCrory more and more with the GA – and that’s bad news for the governor, as the GA’s popularity rating is only 15 percent.

The race for U.S. Senate is still very uncertain: Republican incumbent Richard Burr leads all his hypothetical Democratic challengers (including Heath Shuler and Deborah Ross) by at least seven points – but Burr’s popularity rating is only 31 percent, suggesting possible vulnerability once the Democrats agree on a candidate who can then develop name recognition statewide. Williams says the numbers continue to suggest that the Senate race will turn largely on national trends: if it’s a good year for Republicans nationwide, Burr will win; if not, the Democratic candidate will likely beat him.

Jim Williams spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck on Thursday.


Perhaps the strangest finding of PPP’s North Carolina survey: in a hypothetical three-way matchup with Clinton and Trump, independent candidate “Deez Nuts” would get 9 percent of the vote. (“Deez Nuts” is the name provided by someone who filed to run for president with the FEC. That ‘someone’ turned out to be a 15-year-old boy in Iowa, but he’s still polling fairly well regardless.)

Perhaps a more significant (if equally serious) third-party challenge may come from Donald Trump, who says he may run as an independent if he doesn’t win the GOP nomination. If he does, it could benefit the Democrats: Hillary Clinton would win a three-way matchup with Jeb Bush and Trump, 38 to 28 to 27 respectively. (Trump would win the most independent voters, though.)

Expect Uncertainty In GOP Race For Months: PPP

The race for the Republican presidential nomination has been ever-shifting and unpredictable from the start – and according to pollsters, it may remain so for a long time.

Many observers were hoping Thursday night’s first debate would separate the wheat from the chaff, but Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling says there’s enough uncertainty among GOP voters that it may not be clear who will get the nomination until well into primary season. (Even as second-tier candidates fall away, he says, it’s not obvious which first-tier candidate will pull in more of their supporters.)

Jensen spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck Thursday.


For more numbers from PPP, including results from a recent survey of voters in Minnesota, visit

PPP: Sharks Bad, But Partisan Redistricting Worse

The numbers are in: more North Carolinians approve of sharks than oppose redistricting reform or background checks for gun purchases.

That’s the result of the latest state survey from Public Policy Polling. PPP pollsters asked about sharks in the wake of this summer’s spike in shark attacks. Most North Carolinians don’t have an opinion about sharks one way or another, but 15 percent say they see them favorably (versus 22 percent who don’t like them).

Compare that to our views on universal background checks for gun purchases: 86 percent of NC voters say they support them, against only 10 percent who are opposed.

North Carolinians are almost equally sold on the proposal to put a nonpartisan committee in charge of redrawing legislative district lines. More voters are undecided on this one, but those who have made up their minds are almost all in favor of it: 55 percent support nonpartisan redistricting, while only 10 percent, again, are opposed.

(According to the survey, both nonpartisan redistricting and background checks enjoy widespread support across party lines. In fact, Republican voters are less likely to oppose nonpartisan redistricting than Democrats are – even though nonpartisan redistricting would presumably benefit Democrats at a time when the GOP controls the legislature.)

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


Other results from the PPP survey:

Republicans are evenly split, but in general, most North Carolinans (by a 54-28 margin) say that states should go along with Supreme Court decisions, like them or not (rather than resist, as some state and local officials are trying to do with same-sex marriage).

North Carolinians are more split on the Confederate flag: 38 percent support continuing to fly it; 48 percent are opposed.

The General Assembly remains unpopular, with only 20 percent approving – but voters disapprove of Democratic legislators just as much as Republicans. Democrats lead the generic ballot, 46-42, but that’s a smaller lead than they held at this point two years ago – and not nearly big enough to have any hope of retaking control of the GA.

And back to sharks: notwithstanding the scary headlines, the vast majority (82%) of North Carolinians who typically travel to the beach say the recent wave of shark attacks will have no impact on their travel plans. (Interestingly, there is a partisan divide here: 20 percent of Democrats say they’re less likely to go into the water, versus only 9 percent of Republicans. PPP director Tom Jensen says he has no idea why that is.)

Full details at

GOPers Like Cruz; Nobody Loves Kentucky: PPP

Two national surveys this week from Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling show Ted Cruz making a move in the race for the GOP presidential nomination – and generally favorable views among Americans for all but one Final Four team. (No, not that one.)

Recent polls of Republican voters showed Scott Walker and Jeb Bush beginning to pull away from the rest of the field – but Cruz leapt into the upper tier after officially announcing his candidacy last week. In the latest PPP survey, Walker still leads with 20 percent of the vote and Bush is still in second with 17 percent, but Cruz is only slightly behind with 16 percent – up from just 5 percent a month ago. (That gain is due mostly to a jump for Cruz among voters who identify as “very conservative”: 33 percent of those voters said they favored Cruz, up from 11 percent last month.) Walker’s 20-percent support is down from 25 percent last month.

Two other potential candidates also poll in double digits: Rand Paul and Ben Carson both earned the support of 10 percent of GOP voters (though that’s a sharp drop for Carson: he was at 18 percent a month ago). Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie and Rick Perry all trail far behind – though Rubio actually has the highest favorability rating of all the candidates, so PPP director Tom Jensen says he may be poised to make a move later this year.

See the results of the GOP survey here.

On a lighter note, PPP also surveyed Americans’ opinions of this year’s Final Four teams, Duke, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Michigan State. In all four cases, only about half of those surveyed had any opinion about the schools one way or the other – but about 30 percent of Americans say they have a positive view of each school. Where they differ is in the negative column: Kentucky turns out to be more disliked than the other three schools (25% to Duke’s 20%, MSU’s 16%, and Wisconsin’s 15%). Jensen says that’s likely a product of Kentucky being such a juggernaut in college basketball this year: everybody likes the underdog.

Tom Jensen spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck on Thursday.


Other results from the survey: Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo are the two most popular Final Four coaches; Facebook is the only social media outlet that more Americans like than dislike; Congress’s approval rating is still only 11 percent; Americans have a slightly more positive attitude toward millionaires than toward billionaires; and Americans generally favor making Puerto Rico the 51st state (by a 42-34 margin, with Democrats strongly in favor and Republicans slightly opposed).

See the results of the survey here.

2016 Watch: Clinton Up Big, GOP Divided, Senate Race Close In PA

A pair of surveys released last week by Public Policy Polling suggest that when it comes to the 2016 election, the state of Pennsylvania is not far removed from North Carolina.

Just like in North Carolina, Pennsylvania’s 2016 Senate race will feature a Republican incumbent (Pat Toomey) with low approval ratings (28%) and little name recognition (37% of voters have no opinion of him at all), running against one of a number of even-lesser-known Democratic challengers. As with North Carolina’s Richard Burr, Toomey’s support is weak but his potential opponents aren’t particularly strong, so he’s starting out the 2016 cycle with slight leads over most of his would-be challengers.

Read the results of PPP’s Pennsylvania Senate poll.

Meanwhile in the presidential race, Hillary Clinton continues to lead by a wide margin in the contest for the Democratic nomination, but the Republican field is still muddy: Ben Carson (18%), Jeb Bush (14%) and Mitt Romney (14%) are the only candidates polling in double digits, while New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s support (9%) has dropped precipitously and Pennsylvania native Rick Santorum (6%) enjoys little support at all from his own home state. (As for the general election, Clinton currently leads all her potential GOP opponents by wide margins. The polls are much closer in North Carolina, but the Pennsylvania numbers are still a good early sign for Democrats: Pennsylvania was an important swing state in 2000 and 2004, but since then it’s turned increasingly blue. A good year for Democrats at the top of the ticket could also have residual effects in other races further down the ballot – close races for Senate seats, for instance.)

Read the results of PPP’s Pennsylvania presidential poll.

WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with PPP director Tom Jensen about the Pennsylvania numbers and what they might suggest about North Carolina.

In 2016 Election, NC Will Be Even Larger Focus

We’re now more than a month out from Election Day 2014 – and the national election is now officially over, as Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu just lost a runoff to keep her seat in the U.S. Senate.

That brings the GOP’s majority in the Senate to 54-46 – and it means the so-called “Solid South” is solid once again. Not counting Florida, every single state in the Deep South, from North Carolina over to Arkansas, will have two Republican Senators as of January.

But Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen says there is reason for Democrats in North Carolina to celebrate, at least: Kay Hagan lost her Senate seat, but North Carolina Democrats gained seats in the General Assembly, and that bucked a pretty strong trend.

Jensen spoke last week with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


You can find PPP’s latest numbers online at – and look for a survey of North Carolina voters, coming out later this week.

How Turnout (And Obama) Mattered In 2014

Another national election came and went last week, and when all was said and done, it was a very good night for Republicans across the country – better even than the pollsters had predicted.

Why did Republican candidates do so well across the board? And why did they outperform the pundits’ predictions?

Looking back, Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen says pollsters overestimated Democratic turnout – partly because they’d underestimated Democratic turnout in 2012 and didn’t want to make the same error twice. PPP surveyed voters who’d voted in at least two of the last three national elections (2008, 2010, and 2012) – but that meant they surveyed some voters who’d only voted in presidential years, and Jensen says it’s becoming apparent that presidential elections and midterm elections simply draw two different pools of voters.

Still, PPP outperformed most other national polling outlets – and pollsters in general did accurately predict the winners of nearly all the Senate races. The one exception, as it happened, was North Carolina: most polls had Kay Hagan leading by a point or two, but Thom Tillis ended up winning by the same margin.

Jensen says there’s an explanation for that too. The 2014 election wasn’t as much of a ‘referendum on Obama’ as some believed – most voters actually based their votes on other factors, like the qualities of the individual candidates themselves – but voters who were undecided at the last minute did end up basing their votes on their opinion of the President, and the vast majority of those voters disapproved of him. (According to Jensen, Obama’s approval rating was only 10 percent among last-minute undecideds in the Hagan-Tillis race – and that difference alone was enough to turn a 1-point Hagan lead into a 2-point Tillis win.)

Tom Jensen spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck about the 2014 election – and the art of polling.


Meanwhile, with the 2014 election in the books, the 2016 campaign has already begun.

Last week, conservative commentator Ben Carson became the first to officially declare his candidacy for president, and many more are sure to follow.

What can we expect to see in 2016? Will Democrats be able to recover from their big losses this year?

Jensen says yes – up to a point. Senate terms are six years long, so the Senate seats up for grabs in 2016 will be the same seats that were up for grabs in 2010. That was, of course, a great year for Republicans – which means the GOP will be on the defensive in 2016, just as the Democrats were in 2014 (having to defend all the seats they narrowly won in 2008). Republicans will have to defend six seats in states that Barack Obama won twice: Democratic-leaning Illinois, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and swing states Ohio, New Hampshire and Florida. (Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire appears safe, but the other five Senators could be vulnerable.)

Which means Democrats have a good chance of regaining some Senate seats in 2016 (though there are some vulnerable Democratic incumbents as well, like Michael Bennet in Colorado and Harry Reid in Nevada). The race for control of the House, however, may be a different story: because of how district lines are drawn across the country, very few Congressional seats are actually competitive. (Jensen says only 9 percent of Congressional races this year were decided by a margin of less than 10 percent.) So unless 2016 sees a major shift in the electorate – not impossible, but unlikely – Jensen says the balance of power in the House isn’t likely to change much.

As for the presidential election? Jensen says PPP’s early polls suggest Ben Carson is actually one of Republican voters’ top four choices for the GOP nomination, despite (or because of?) his never having held political office.

Jensen spoke with Aaron Keck about what to expect in 2016.


PPP will release more data from its 2016 surveys later this week. Visit this link for a discussion of the 2016 Senate picture.

Election Day Is One Big Toss-Up

Election Day is upon us, and if the pollsters are to be believed, races are extremely tight all across the nation.

Republicans are going to pick up some seats in the U.S. Senate, but it’s still unclear how many: most pollsters say the GOP is likely going to regain control of the Senate from Democrats, but that’s far from a sure thing. The latest surveys from Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling show neck-and-neck races for Senate seats in Georgia, New Hampshire, Kansas, and Iowa – and those are only some of the key seats up for grabs.

Read the full report from PPP.

And in North Carolina, incumbent Senator Kay Hagan appears to be leading her challenger, Republican State House Speaker Thom Tillis – but only by a very narrow margin.

WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen about what to expect when the final numbers come in.


Tune in to WCHL after the Tuesday Evening News for live Election Night coverage; Tom Jensen will be among our guest analysts. And visit for all the election returns as they come in after the polls close Tuesday night.