Latest Polls Show North Carolina Races Tied

There’s a familiar theme running through North Carolina this election season.

“We’re dead even in the presidential race, dead even in the gubernatorial race, we have a three point senate race,” says Tom Jensen, the director of Public Policy Polling.

“It’s really hard to think of anywhere in the country that’s going to have elections that are as competitive as North Carolina. We will be in the national spotlight for better or worse.”

The tight races begin with the presidential race. Both presumptive nominees have recently campaigned in North Carolina, but that doesn’t seem to have swayed the voters.

“We remain about as closely divided as we can be when it comes to the presidential race. We have Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump exactly tied. They’re each getting 43 percent. Then Libertarian Gary Johnson is at 4 percent, Green Party candidate Jill Stein is at 2 percent and 7 percent of voters are undecided.”

Jensen says these numbers will begin to change as Sanders supporters look to back Clinton.

“If Hillary could win over just half of the Sanders fans right now who aren’t voting for her, she’d go from this 43-43 tie up to leading by five points at 48-43.”

North Carolina’s gubernatorial race tells a similar story. The latest polls show incumbent Pat McCrory tied with challenger Roy Cooper at 41 percent each. Libertarian Lon Cecil trails at 6 percent with 13 percent of voters undecided.

“I really don’t think it’s a race where we’ll ever see anybody break away from the field. I think were in for a tight one till the very end.”

The contest for Lieutenant Governor is also tied with Republican incumbent Dan Forest and Democratic challenger Linda Coleman each at 37 percent. Libertarian J.J. Summerell stands at 4 percent and 22 percent of voters are undecided.

The North Carolina senate race is also close this year.

“We find that the Senate race continues to be very competitive, I think really surprisingly compared to what people maybe six months ago would have expected it to be.”

Richard Burr is in the lead right now, polling at 40 percent, which is only three points higher than democrat challenger Deborah Ross who stands at 37 percent. Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh trails at 5 percent.

Jensen says rumors that Burr being considered for Trump’s vice president, isn’t helping the party’s numbers. The same goes for polls that team up Elizabeth Warren with Clinton.

“What we’ve been finding when polling different running mates it doesn’t make a very big difference.”

Some of the most surprising poll numbers, Jensen says, come from the gun control debate.

“What’s really striking in our gun polling is how bipartisan some of the support for some of the measures that democrats are trying to support are.”

91 percent of independents, 84 percent of democrats and 82 percent of republicans are in favor of expanding background checks before allowing the purchase of guns.

“We talk so often about how polarized the country is right now and it is, and that’s why it’s so remarkable when you look at these issues to see over 75 percent support on both of them from democrats, republican and independents alike.”

Similar numbers are reflected in favor of banning those on the “no fly list” from purchasing guns with 89 percent of independents, 79 percent of republicans and 78 percent of democrats.

“It’s definitely a rare issue where there’s pretty strong consensus in the public about what they want to see happen. Democrats are on the right side of public opinion on this one.”

The race for control of North Carolina’s Supreme Court shows incumbent Bob Edmunds leading challenger Mike Morgan just 28 to 24, with 48 percent of voters undecided in the nonpartisan contest.

The General Assembly remains unpopular, with only 18 percent of voters approving of the job it’s doing and 57 percent who don’t.

Voters also disapprove of HB 2, with 32 percent of North Carolina supporting the bill while 43 percent are opposed. An overwhelming 50 percent of voters say it’s having a negative impact on the state’s reputation opposed to 19 the percent who say it’s improved.

As one of the largest democratic counties, Jensen says Orange County, will have great impact on the upcoming elections.

“A heavy turnout from Orange County or not could make the difference in terms of how some of these races turn out. I think this is an election I think that nobody is going to want to sit out.”

You can see the full survey results here.

Republicans Unite Around Trump, But Clinton Still Has Edge

Donald Trump won the GOP presidential nomination over the loud objections of more than a few leading Republicans. But as our collective attention turns to the general election, most Republicans appear to be falling in line behind the nominee – even if they’re gritting their teeth to do it.

A national survey this week from Public Policy Polling finds Hillary Clinton with a four-point edge on Trump, 42-38, with Libertarian Gary Johnson at 4 percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein at 2 percent. (Johnson and Stein are actually pulling more votes from Clinton than Trump; take them away and Clinton’s lead would jump to six points.)

For all the talk about GOP disunity, though, Trump gets almost exactly as much support from Republicans as Clinton gets from Democrats. Clinton leads Trump 78-9 among Democrats, while Trump leads Clinton 78-7 among Republicans; 72 percent of Republicans say they’re comfortable with Trump as their party’s nominee, while 75 percent of Democrats say they’re comfortable with Clinton. (The number of Republicans and Democrats who say they’re uncomfortable with their party’s frontrunner? Exactly the same in both parties, 21 percent.)

Get more numbers from PPP’s presidential survey here.

Those numbers may be disappointing to Democrats who were hoping for a fractured GOP this fall – but PPP director Tom Jensen says there’s plenty of good news here for Democrats too. For one, the undecided voters in a Clinton/Trump matchup tend to be supporters of Bernie Sanders – Clinton/Trump undecideds favor Sanders over Trump by a 41-8 margin – so if Clinton does end up winning the nomination, she may be able to expand her lead in a big way merely by winning over Sanders’ supporters. (The Clinton/Sanders race has been contentious, but Jensen says he does expect the party to come together sooner or later. At this time in 2008, he says, nearly half of Clinton’s supporters were telling pollsters they wouldn’t vote for Obama that fall – far more than the number of Sanders supporters who say they won’t support Clinton now – but almost all those voters did wind up supporting Obama in the end.)

And while Clinton’s popularity ratings remain low, Jensen says Trump’s are even lower: only 34 percent of voters approve of him, against 61 percent who disapprove. (And Trump’s supporters still tend to be on the fringes when it comes to their political views: nearly two-thirds of them say they think Barack Obama is a Muslim, for instance, and nearly three-fifths say they still don’t believe he was born in the US.) To drive home the point, PPP tested Trump in head-to-head matchups with other despised things: voters prefer lice to Donald Trump by a 54-28 margin, root canals to Donald Trump by a 49-38 margin, used car salesmen to Donald Trump by a 47-41 margin, and the band Nickelback to Donald Trump by a 39-34 margin.

(Trump does win head-to-head battles with cockroaches and hemorrhoids, though. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.)

Tom Jensen spoke Thursday with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


Jensen says even if the GOP does end up unifying around its nominee, Trump’s place at the top of the ballot may still haunt the party in the general election. Democrats lead Republicans 46-41 in a generic Congressional ballot – not enough of a lead for Democrats to regain control of the House of Representatives, but enough for Democrats to pick up several seats in both houses (and possibly retake the Senate). Voters also say (by a 45-26 margin) that they’d be less likely to vote for a candidate if that candidate endorses Trump for president.

Get more numbers on PPP’s Congressional survey here.

And the thought of Donald Trump in the White House is also making voters more likely to want the Senate to vote now on President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court. Only 38 percent of voters say they trust Trump to make a Supreme Court nomination, against 53 percent who don’t; 58 percent of Americans say they want the vacant seat filled this year (up slightly from two months ago); and 50 percent of voters say they’d be less likely to vote for a Senator if that Senator blocked Merritt Garland’s confirmation hearings. (Only 18 percent say they’d be more likely to vote for such a candidate.)

Get more numbers on PPP’s Supreme Court survey here.

On Polls, Primaries, Caucuses, And The Clinton-Sanders Race

Okay. So earlier this week, Bernie Sanders won the Indiana primary.

Shouldn’t have been a big surprise, really. Indiana was an open primary, where independents are allowed to vote; independents tend to favor Sanders over Clinton, so Bernie’s generally been doing better in open-primary states. Clinton tends to run stronger among black voters, but Indiana doesn’t have a huge minority population, so that favored Bernie too.

So – not a surprise, right?

Except it was a surprise. Going into the election, all the polls said Hillary was going to win. A Marist College survey had Clinton up 50-46. An American Research Group survey had her up 51-43. YouGov had her up 49-44. Fox News had her up 46-42. Not one survey had Bernie ahead. The website, which makes predictions based on all the polls put together, predicted Hillary would win by about a 52-45 margin.

But then Bernie won. Surprise!

Later, I got an email with an interesting question.

“Hi Aaron. I would be interested to hear…why the national pollsters keep forecasting Hillary to win, when she seems to often fall short. I know they talk about margin-of-error, but it seems to always go to Bernie.”

Good question, right?

After all, it has kinda seemed like that. All the national polls have shown Hillary in the lead from the beginning, but Bernie’s the one who’s been drawing the big crowds, he’s the one who’s got people talking on social media…and he keeps winning primaries! Indiana, the polls had Hillary up 7 points, Bernie won by 5. Michigan, the polls had Hillary up 21 points, Bernie won by 2.

And yes, polling isn’t perfect, but in this case it seems to be a one-way street. Bernie’s won states that the pollsters called for Hillary – but Hillary hasn’t won a single state that the pollsters called for Bernie.

What gives?

I asked Tom Jensen, the director of Public Policy Polling, one of the most respected polling outlets in the country.

“It’s sometimes just harder (for pollsters) to pick up those independent voters who are planning to vote in the Democratic primary,” he said. That may have been one reason for the incorrect polls in Indiana – compounded by the fact that Indiana has uniquely restrictive laws that make it nearly impossible for pollsters (including PPP) to conduct surveys there.

Okay. That makes sense.

But then Jensen added something else.

He said the pollsters have basically been getting it right.

Michigan and Indiana were outliers, he said, but the polls in every other primary have been fairly accurate. And while individual surveys may be off, they’re not all off in one particular direction. The polls underestimated Bernie in Michigan and Indiana’s open primaries, he said, but they also “slightly underestimated Hillary Clinton in states like Maryland and New York, in closed primaries where only Democrats could vote.”

Now, I trust Tom Jensen. Back in mid-March when Hillary was surging, he told me Bernie was about to have a run of victories. In early April, with Bernie on a roll, he told me Hillary was going to dominate for the rest of the month. He was right both times.

But is he right about the polls being accurate?

I searched the Internet for a page that compared survey data with actual results in every state. Surprisingly I came up empty.

Oh well. If it doesn’t exist, do it yourself!

In the chart below, you’ll see the polling numbers for Clinton and Sanders (and the predicted margin of victory), followed by their actual vote percentage in the primary itself (and the actual margin of victory). The column on the far right measures polling error, the difference between the predicted margin and the actual margin: who got overestimated, and by how much.

AL 71.4 25.7 Clinton +45.7 77.8 19.2 Clinton +58.6 Sanders +12.9
AZ* 51.1 22.7 Clinton +28.4 57.6 39.9 Clinton +17.7 Clinton +10.7
AR 60.5 36 Clinton +24.5 66.3 29.7 Clinton +36.6 Sanders +12.1
CT 50.9 46.8 Clinton +4.1 51.8 46.4 Clinton +5.4 Sanders +1.3
FL 63.2 33.8 Clinton +29.4 64.4 33.3 Clinton +31.1 Sanders +1.7
GA 66.3 30.5 Clinton +35.8 71.3 28.2 Clinton +43.1 Sanders +7.3
IL 51.6 44.3 Clinton +7.3 50.5 48.7 Clinton +1.8 Clinton +5.5
IN 52.3 45.2 Clinton +7.1 47.5 52.5 Sanders +5.0 Clinton +12.1
IA 49.1 44.7 Clinton +4.4 49.9 49.6 Clinton +0.3 Clinton +4.1
LA 72.6 20.2 Clinton +52.4 71.1 23.2 Clinton +47.9 Clinton +4.5
MD 56.4 40.9 Clinton +15.5 63 33.2 Clinton +29.8 Sanders +14.3
MA 52.4 44.8 Clinton +7.6 50.1 48.7 Clinton +1.4 Clinton +6.2
MI 59.2 38.3 Clinton +20.9 48.3 49.8 Sanders +1.5 Clinton +22.6
MS 77 16.7 Clinton +60.3 82.6 16.5 Clinton +66.1 Sanders +5.8
MO 48.8 48.1 Clinton +0.7 49.6 49.4 Clinton +0.2 Clinton +0.5
NC 59.6 37.6 Clinton +22.2 54.6 40.8 Clinton +13.8 Clinton +8.4
NH 41.5 55.6 Sanders +14.1 38 60.4 Sanders +22.4 Clinton +8.3
NY 53.5 42 Clinton +13.5 58 42 Clinton +16 Sanders +2.5
NV 51.2 47.2 Clinton +4.0 52.6 47.3 Clinton +5.3 Sanders +1.3
OH 53.9 43.3 Clinton +10.6 56.5 42.7 Clinton +13.8 Sanders +3.2
OK 47.2 47.5 Sanders +0.3 41.5 51.9 Sanders +10.4 Clinton +10.1
PA 57.1 40.4 Clinton +16.7 55.6 43.6 Clinton +12 Clinton +4.7
RI 48.1 49.2 Sanders +1.1 3.6 54.6 Sanders +11 Clinton +9.9
SC 64.5 31.3 Clinton +33.2 73.5 26 Clinton +47.5 Sanders +14.3
TN 60.5 36.1 Clinton +24.4 66.1 32.4 Clinton +33.7 Sanders +9.3
TX 63.3 33.7 Clinton +29.6 65.2 33.2 Clinton +32 Sanders +2.4
UT* 43.8 51.1 Sanders +7.3 20.3 79.3 Sanders +59 Clinton +51.7
VT 10.2 87.4 Sanders +77.2 13.6 86.1 Sanders +72.5 Sanders +4.7
VA 60.2 36.7 Clinton +23.5 64.3 35.2 Clinton +29.1 Sanders +5.6
WI 47.4 50.1 Sanders +2.7 43.1 56.6 Sanders +13.5 Clinton +10.8

(For polling numbers, I used FiveThirtyEight’s “polls-only” projections for each state. In the two starred states – Arizona and Utah – FiveThirtyEight didn’t have enough surveys for a projection, so I used their weighted polling average instead. To make this easier, I’m only including the 50 states plus Washington, DC. Sorry, Guam.)

So how have the pollsters done?

Turns out Tom Jensen was right. Exactly right, in fact. In the 30 states on that chart, the polls have erred in Hillary’s favor 15 times, and Bernie’s favor 15 times. A perfectly even split.

Also worth noting: the pollsters don’t always predict the right margin of victory, but they have picked the correct winner in 28 out of 30 states. Michigan and Indiana were the only outliers.

How about accuracy? In most states, the FiveThirtyEight projections have been off by 4-9 points. The numbers were most accurate in Missouri, off by only half a point. Where were they most inaccurate?

UT     Clinton +51.7
MI     Clinton +22.6
MD    Sanders +14.3
SC      Sanders +14.3
AL      Sanders +12.9
AR     Sanders +12.1
IN      Clinton +12.1

The polls underestimated Sanders in Michigan and Indiana, but they also overestimated Sanders in a few states where Clinton’s margin of victory turned out to be even bigger than expected. (What the hell happened in Utah? The only poll FiveThirtyEight had to work with was from a local outfit that surveyed less than 200 voters with more than a week to go before the election. Utah is also a caucus state, and caucuses are notoriously difficult to predict.)

So there you go. Michigan and Indiana made headlines, and there have been some errors, but in general the polls haven’t skewed toward Hillary any more than they’ve skewed toward Bernie.


…we’re not quite done yet. Something else is going on here.

Take a look at that chart again.

Where are all Bernie’s states?

Thirty states on that chart, and Sanders only won eight of them. You know he won a lot more than that. What happened to all the other states?

I did more digging…and the answer is fascinating.

As of today, May 7, there have already been primaries or caucuses in 41 states. FiveThirtyEight had pre-election projections for 30 of them. FiveThirtyEight couldn’t project the other 11 states – Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Washington, and Wyoming – because there wasn’t any survey data for those states.

Nobody polled them.

Why not?

Delaware, apparently, got passed over because nobody lives there. Sorry, Delaware.

But the other 10 states?

They’re all caucus states, as it turns out. That’s why nobody polled them.

Caucuses are weird beasts. Different states run them in different ways, but the upshot is that you don’t go to the polls and cast a ballot – you go to a meeting, organize into groups, and spend time talking to people. The process can take several hours. So it’s almost impossible to predict, with any accuracy, who’s actually going to show up for these things. Maybe the babysitter cancels at the last minute. Maybe it’s your anniversary. Maybe you don’t love your candidate enough to blow a whole evening on them. Could be anything. And in order for a poll to be accurate, the pollster has to be able to predict who’s going to show up: this percentage of white voters, that percentage of women. You can’t do that with caucuses, so pollsters rarely bother to try.

Thirteen states have held caucuses so far this year, and only a couple of them have been polled. Iowa always gets surveyed because it’s first in the cycle; Nevada got surveyed a few times; Utah had that one poll that turned out to be totally wrong – and that was it. The other ten states – Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Washington, and Wyoming – FiveThirtyEight didn’t even try to project, because they had no polls to go on.

And Bernie won all ten of those states.

Weird, right?

So there’s your answer, if you’re wondering why the polls keep saying Hillary while the results keep saying Bernie. The polls themselves have actually been right, for the most part, and their errors have been perfectly balanced – it’s just that Bernie’s victories have been coming in those caucus states, which nobody bothers to poll.

Which only leaves one more question:

Why does Bernie do so much better in caucuses?

It’s a pretty stark difference, actually. Bernie has won 11 of the 13 caucuses so far, while Hillary has won 21 of the 28 primaries. Something’s clearly going on.

There are a variety of possible reasons. First off, almost all the caucuses have taken place in states with very small minority populations, where Bernie has an advantage anyway. You also have to be really energized to spend an entire evening at a caucus, and we know that Bernie supporters are generally more energized than Hillary supporters. (You also have to have the whole evening free, so conservatives, here’s your chance to joke about Bernie voters all being unemployed.)

But it may not be a Bernie thing at all. I don’t know why, but for whatever reason – and this goes all the way back to 2008 – Hillary Clinton just sucks at caucuses.

Want to know why Barack Obama has been president for the last eight years? Here’s why. In 2008, the Democratic Party held 38 presidential primaries, and Hillary won 20 of them. She won pivotal early primaries in New Hampshire and Florida; she won the big races in California, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. Obama won his home-state primary in Illinois, but his second-biggest victory (in terms of population) was North Carolina. Hillary got all the big prizes. And she got more votes overall too: according to, Clinton won a total of 18,055,516 primary votes nationwide, against only 17,628,560 for Obama.

So why did Hillary Clinton lose?

Because there were also 14 caucuses, and she won…one of them.

Arizona Alabama Nevada Alaska
Arkansas Connecticut   Colorado
California District of Columbia   Hawaii
Florida Delaware   Idaho
Indiana Georgia   Iowa
Kentucky Illinois   Kansas
Massachusetts Louisiana   Maine
Michigan Maryland   Minnesota
New Hampshire Mississippi   Nebraska
New Jersey Missouri   North Dakota
New Mexico Montana   Texas
New York North Carolina   Washington
Ohio Oregon   Wyoming
Oklahoma South Carolina    
Pennsylvania Utah    
Rhode Island Vermont    
South Dakota Virginia    
Tennessee Wisconsin    
West Virginia      


Texas is the textbook case here. (I’ll let you make your own joke about Texas and textbooks.) The state held a primary on March 4, 2008, which Clinton won by a 51-47 margin – but the state also apportioned some of its delegates at precinct-level caucuses, and Obama won those by a margin of 56-44.

Why is Hillary Clinton bad at caucuses? I have no idea. But it probably cost her the 2008 nomination – and it’s making the 2016 race a lot closer than it otherwise might be.



After all that, here’s what we know:

The polls did get Michigan and Indiana wrong, but otherwise they’ve correctly called the winner of every other state. Primaries aren’t easy to predict, so the pollsters are having a pretty decent year. Though it might sometimes appear otherwise, the polls are not skewed in favor of either candidate.

Most of Bernie’s victories have come in caucus states, which pollsters typically don’t survey. Why Bernie does better in caucus states is still an open question, but caucuses were also Hillary’s albatross in 2008 as well. (The only exception seems to be Nevada, which Hillary won in both 2008 and 2016. I don’t know who runs her Nevada campaign, but that person deserves a big raise.)

And we know enough about this primary to make an educated guess about how the rest of the cycle will go. Tom Jensen says there are really only three things you need to know: “Bernie Sanders does a lot better in caucuses than he does in primaries…he does a lot better in open contests where independents are allowed to vote…and he does a lot better in states that are heavily white.”

There are ten contests left, and only one of them is a caucus – so if you’re still holding out the hope for Bernie, you need to pray he figures out primaries quick.

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

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