PPP: GOP Presidential Race Down To Four

There are still many candidates in the running for the Republican presidential nomination, but Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen says it’s rapidly becoming a four-man race.

PPP’s latest national survey shows Donald Trump still leading, with 26 percent of the GOP vote; Ben Carson is in second with 19 percent. That’s virtually unchanged from PPP’s last national survey, six weeks ago, when Trump led Carson 27-17. What has changed, though, is that Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have begun to distance themselves from the rest of the field and close the gap on the two frontrunners. 14 percent of GOP voters now say they’re supporting Cruz – up from 7 percent six weeks ago – while Rubio trails just behind at 13 percent.

No other candidate polls more than 5 percent. Jensen says Jeb Bush has enough of a war chest that he might still be able to make a comeback – at least in theory – but his numbers have been declining for weeks.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has maintained her large lead over Bernie Sanders. Clinton now leads Sanders 59-26; six weeks ago her lead was 57-22. Martin O’Malley, at 7 percent, will get that darned windmill one of these days.

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


Perhaps even more striking than the presidential horse-race numbers: PPP asked Republican voters how they felt about Donald Trump’s call to shut down all the mosques in America (a proposal that, if actually implemented, would likely run afoul of the First Amendment). Only 38 percent of GOP voters said they were opposed to it; 27 percent said they favored it, while the remaining 35 percent said they weren’t sure. Trump and Cruz supporters were more likely to support shutting down mosques, while Carson and Bush supporters were more likely to oppose it.

Full results from the survey here.


Election 2016: Who’s Got The Upper Hand?

With the 2016 presidential election less than a year away, Hillary Clinton still appears to be cruising to the Democratic nomination, but the GOP race is still up in the air.

Judging from the polls, four candidates seem to be on top – political outsiders Donald Trump and Ben Carson and Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio – with a fifth candidate, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, foundering but still potentially formidable.

Who’s going to win the GOP nomination? Who should?

Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen, who recently polled voters in South Carolina, says Trump is still in the lead nationwide but his support appears to be fading; Carson is polling a very close second, though he’s not adding to his current base of support. (He’s not losing his base either, though – which is good news for Carson, after a rough week in the spotlight.)

Jensen says Cruz and Rubio are both gaining support, though they still have a ways to go to overtake Trump and Carson. Still, Jensen says there’s plenty of time for things to change: at this time four years ago, Newt Gingrich was leading in the polls, with Herman Cain a close second. Mitt Romney’s surge was yet to come.

Tom Jensen spoke Thursday with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


Ashley DeSena of Hillsborough is a Republican who recently ran for the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners (a nonpartisan race); formerly of the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough, she’s now operations coordinator at the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. She says Republicans are definitely seeking an outsider, but she doesn’t see Trump or Carson remaining atop the polls for long: she’s expecting Cruz and Rubio to emerge as the top two candidates, though it’s still too early to tell which of them will wind up as the nominee.

Ashley DeSena spoke with Aaron Keck on Tuesday.


Primary day for North Carolina is March 15. Jensen says regardless of who wins the GOP nomination, he expects the general election to be very close, particularly in North Carolina – which will also likely have an extremely close race for governor, and possibly also for U.S. Senator if the Democrats can nominate a viable challenger to take on Richard Burr.


Chapel Hill Mayoral Candidates Get Out The Vote

It’s been a highly contentious local election season (to say the least), but with Election Day looming, Chapel Hill’s three mayoral candidates do agree on one thing: everyone should get to the polls and vote.

Incumbent mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and challenger Pam Hemminger are running neck-and-neck: in the latest survey from Public Policy Polling, Hemminger has a six-point lead (43-37), but nearly 20 percent of Chapel Hill voters say they’re still undecided. (Another 2 percent support longshot challenger Gary Kahn.) With the race that close, turnout is going to play a major role: turnout for Chapel Hill municipal elections is typically only around 15 percent, so the candidate who wins is going to be the candidate who gets his or her supporters to the polls.

In the midst of the early voting period, WCHL invited Kleinschmidt, Hemminger, and Kahn to the studio to get the vote out together and make their final pitches to Chapel Hill voters. Kleinschmidt and Kahn joined Aaron Keck on the air Monday; Hemminger was ill that day, but joined Aaron later in the week.

Listen to Mark Kleinschmidt and Gary Kahn:


Listen to Pam Hemminger:


Election Day is Tuesday, November 3. Polls are open from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm. (Photo ID is not required to vote this year – though poll workers may ask if you have a photo ID, to make sure you’re ready for 2016 when the photo ID requirement kicks in.)

The nine-day early voting period ended on Saturday afternoon. There was a major spike in early-voting turnout in the final days: about 300 people showed up to the polls on each of the first six days, but 483 people turned out on day 7 (Thursday) and 642 people turned out on day 8 (Friday). In all, more than 3,000 people turned out for early voting in Orange County; once Saturday’s turnout is added to the total, it’ll likely be more than 3,500 and possibly as many as 4,000. For comparison’s sake: only about 2,000 voters turned out for early voting in Orange County in the 2013 municipal election – but about 4,000 did turn out for early voting in the previous municipal election, 2011.

Early voting turnout numbers here.



NC Survey Finds GOP Support For “Banning Islam”

The First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” – but when it comes to Islam, a surprising number of North Carolinians are apparently willing to make an exception.

Republicans in North Carolina, to be precise: a survey last week from Public Policy Polling found that 40 percent of GOP voters in the state believe the practice of Islam should be made illegal. Only 40 percent of GOP voters believe it should definitely be legal; the other 20 percent say they’re not sure.

PPP director Tom Jensen says he asked the question to determine how GOP voters were reacting to comments made about Islam by leading presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson. Jensen says judging from the numbers, those comments are unlikely to have hurt them, at least among their current supporters. (Indeed a majority of Trump supporters, 52 percent, say they believe Islam should be illegal.)

And while most GOP voters aren’t willing to go as far as banning the entire religion, a very large majority – 72 percent – say a Muslim should not be allowed to serve as President. (The same majority, 72 percent, also say they believe Barack Obama is “waging a war on Christianity.”)

Those findings are not unique to North Carolina: Jensen says PPP found similar results in Iowa the previous week.

Where do Democrats and independents stand? Jensen says so far, PPP has been asking the question exclusively to Republican voters because of the Trump/Carson connection – but they’re going to start polling all voters on the question in subsequent surveys.

Tom Jensen spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL last week.


Other results from PPP’s North Carolina survey:

The Pat McCrory/Roy Cooper race for governor remains extremely tight, but McCrory has regained a lead, 44-41, for the first time since spring. McCrory’s approval rating is still low, though, at 35 percent. Similar story in the race for U.S. Senate: Richard Burr also has a low approval rating, 29 percent, but he leads all his potential Democratic challengers by at least five points.

The General Assembly is extremely unpopular, with an approval rating of only 14 percent, and there’s bipartisan agreement on that one: 60 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of Democrats disapprove of the NCGA. Republican and Democratic legislators are about equally unpopular, though, and Democrats lead the generic 2016 ballot by only four points – so there’s no sign of a sea change in the coming election.

The presidential race is mostly unchanged from August. Donald Trump is leading the GOP presidential primary race with 26 percent of North Carolina Republicans. Ben Carson is second with 21 percent, Carly Fiorina is third with 12 percent, and Marco Rubio is fourth with 10 percent. Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders 51-23 (also mostly unchanged from last month), but Joe Biden would do well here if he entered the race: he’d get 30 percent of North Carolina Democrats, while Clinton’s support would shrink to 37 percent.

70 percent of North Carolinians (including a slight majority of Republicans, 51 percent) support raising the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour. 89 percent support background checks on all gun purchases, with very little difference across party lines.

Full results from PPP’s North Carolina survey are available here and here.


Poll Shows Tight Race Ahead for Chapel Hill Municipal Election

Undecided voters will likely determine the Chapel Hill Town Council and Mayoral leadership this November, according to new polling numbers.

With a heated campaign season well underway, Public Policy Polling commissioned a Chapel Hill-specific survey and exclusively shared the results with WCHL-Chapelboro.

PPP Director Tom Jensen says, with more than a month to go before Election Day, a lot could change between now and November 3. But as it stands, incumbent Mark Kleinschmidt is leading the Mayoral candidates with 37 percent of respondents favoring a fourth term for Kleinschmidt. Challenger Pam Hemminger checked in with 25 percent of respondents and Gary Kahn is polling at five percent. Kleinschmidt also boasts a 48/27 approval rating. Jensen says it would be “pretty unusual” to lose when a candidate’s numbers are “that solid,” but 33 percent of those surveyed say they are still undecided on who they will vote for in the ballot box in the coming weeks.

Listen to Tom Jensen’s full interview with WCHL’s Aaron Keck below:


Meanwhile, 42 percent of respondents say they are undecided on their first choice for Town Council and 52 percent say they have no clear second choice. 22 percent of those surveyed say they support challenger Nancy Oates as their first or second choice among CHTC candidates, followed by incumbents Jim Ward, 19 percent, Donna Bell, 18 percent, and Lee Storrow, 13 percent. Challengers David Schwartz, 11 percent, Jessica Anderson, nine percent, Michael Parker, eight percent, Adam Jones, five percent, and Paul Neebe, three percent, round out the crowded field.

Jensen says another way to look at the numbers shows incumbents – Bell, Storrow and Ward – totaling 50 percent of the support, and CHALT-backed candidates – Oates, Schwartz and Anderson – receiving 42 percent of the support. Hemminger has been endorsed by CHALT in the race for Mayor.

There is one open seat on the Town Council after Matt Czajkowski resigned to work for a non-profit in Rwanda earlier this year.

Jensen points out endorsements in the next month from the Sierra Club and the Indy Week have the potential to greatly shuffle the deck of hopefuls.

The polling shows that Chapel Hillians are as divided on issues in the town as they are the candidates hoping to make decisions on those issues in the future; 43 percent of voters think the town is headed in the right direction, while 39 percent think it’s on the wrong track; 50 percent of voters think the town is growing at the right pace, 33 percent think it’s growing too fast and eight percent answered Chapel Hill is growing too slow.

One area that received more support was the Orange-Durham Light Rail project, with 69 percent of those surveyed supporting the plan.

66 percent of voters say they’re inclined to support proposed bonds.

Meanwhile, 27 percent of voters support the Obey Creek project with 44 percent saying they are opposed to the development.

Jensen says the poll was commissioned because of interest, not because of a candidate had requested or paid for it. He cites the fact that he lives in Chapel Hill helped decide to go forward with the survey.

You can read over the entire results here, ChapelHillPoll2015


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 PublicPolicyPolling.com 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 PublicPolicyPolling.com.


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 PublicPolicyPolling.com.