Americans Split On Politics, Football

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

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

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


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

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

More numbers from PPP’s Super Bowl survey here.

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

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

More numbers from PPP’s presidential primary survey here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

What Is To Be Gun?

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

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


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

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

PPP: NC Republicans (Not Just Trump Supporters) Highly Anti-Muslim

Just in case you haven’t heard, Donald Trump has been in the news a bit this week.

His most recent comments about Muslims – now he’s calling for the U.S. to ban all Muslims from entering the country (“temporarily,” at least) – have drawn criticisms, rebukes, denunciations and condemnations from political leaders in both parties.

But what do voters think?

A new survey from Public Policy Polling finds that a plurality of North Carolina Republicans agree with many of Trump’s ideas. 48 percent of GOP voters say Muslims should be required to register for a national database, with only 33 percent opposed. 42 percent believe Trump’s claim that “thousands of Arabs cheered” in Jersey City while witnessing the 9/11 attacks, while only 26 percent say they don’t believe that happened. And 35 percent of GOP voters say all the mosques in the U.S. should be shut down; only 33 percent say they’d oppose such a thing.

Get the full results here.

Those measures find their strongest support among Trump voters – 67 percent in favor of a national database, 51 percent in favor of shutting down mosques – but they’re getting support from non-Trump voters too. Among Ted Cruz voters, there’s more support than opposition for a national database (43-31) and a forced shutdown of mosques (41-28). Supporters of Marco Rubio and Ben Carson, the other two frontrunners in the GOP race, are less likely to support those measures – but even there, more than a third of Rubio and Carson supporters favor a national database and more than a quarter favor a mosque shutdown. (Rubio, Carson and Cruz have all voiced opposition to Trump’s most recent remarks – but with notably less fervor than some of the candidates who are polling lower.)

PPP director Tom Jensen says those numbers suggest that Trump won’t lose support by making inflammatory statements about Muslims – he may even gain support. “Trump’s Islamophobia is a central feature of his appeal,” says Jensen. (This survey was conducted before the latest firestorm, but a survey from Bloomberg indicates nearly two-thirds of GOP voters want to ban Muslims from entering the country. Even some Democrats – 18 percent – say they agree too.)

Jensen spoke Wednesday with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


PPP’s poll also found that Trump still holds a sizable lead among North Carolina Republicans in the race for the GOP nomination, with 33 percent support against only 16 percent for second-place Ted Cruz and 14 percent each for Rubio and Carson. (Cruz is gaining, though – his support in North Carolina was only 6 percent in October.) Hillary Clinton is maintaining a big lead over Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side. Most of the GOP contenders hold a slight edge over Clinton in a hypothetical general election.

The survey also found GOP incumbent Pat McCrory regaining a slight lead over Democratic challenger Roy Cooper, 44-42, in the race for governor. (Cooper had a slight lead in the October poll, but the two have been running within the margin of error in polls all year.) U.S. Senator Richard Burr holds 11-point leads over his likely Democratic challengers, but Jensen says that’s largely because those challengers (Deborah Ross, Kevin Griffin) are still fairly unknown. Burr himself is still fairly unpopular, with only a 33 percent approval rating, so he could be vulnerable in 2016 if there’s a strong Democratic challenger.

PPP: In GOP, “Islamophobia” Concentrated In Trump Supporters

With the Iowa caucuses less than two months away, Donald Trump still holds a big lead in the race for the GOP presidential nomination – either despite his penchant for controversy, or because of it.

In the latest Public Policy Polling survey, conducted this week in New Hampshire, Trump is holding steady with 27 percent of GOP voters backing him – more than twice the support of Ted Cruz, who’s in second place with 13 percent. (Marco Rubio is in third with 11 percent; Chris Christie, barely a blip on the radar not long ago, has moved up into fourth place with 10 percent.)

Get the full numbers from PPP’s New Hampshire survey here.

PPP’s New Hampshire numbers mirror trends that pollsters are finding nationwide: Cruz is gaining ground, but he still has a long way to go to knock Trump out of the lead. (Ben Carson, who had been creeping up on Trump, has dropped back. PPP director Tom Jensen says that may be because recent events like the Paris attacks have made voters more concerned about foreign policy, where Carson lacks experience.)

Is Trump a lock? Absolutely not, says Jensen. Many primary voters don’t make up their minds until a couple weeks before they vote, so nothing is a sure thing yet. At this same point four years ago, Newt Gingrich appeared to be pulling away in the race for the GOP nomination, but he lost his lead before the primaries even began. Nor was Gingrich the only candidate ever to see his supporters vanish at the last second. Jensen says Trump’s candidacy bears some resemblance to Howard Dean’s in 2004: Dean too was an insurgent candidate who fired up the base, worried party insiders, and led the polls consistently in the months leading up to the Iowa caucus – but his support vanished quickly (even before his infamous “Dean scream” gaffe) as Democrats turned to the ostensibly more ‘electable’ John Kerry when it actually came time to vote.

Still, with Trump it could turn out differently. Jensen says his support is particularly resilient because of the “almost cultlike” devotion he inspires from his followers, who “basically buy into everything he says.” What that means is that Trump supporters are far more likely to agree with his most incendiary, even “Islamophobic” ideas. Only 30 percent of Republicans believe Trump’s claim that “thousands of Arabs in New Jersey” were publicly celebrating after the 9/11 attacks – but 58 percent of Trump supporters say they believe it. 53 percent of Trump supporters favor creating a “national database of Muslims,” and 49 percent say they want to shut down all U.S. mosques – but only 25-30 percent of Republicans as a whole support those ideas, with every other candidate’s supporters generally opposed. Trump supporters even say they favor special laws for Muslims: 66 percent are opposed to a general ban on assault weapons, but 56 percent would favor a law prohibiting Muslims from owning them.

Jensen spoke Thursday with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


One thing that Republicans are more likely to favor – not just Trump supporters – is a blanket ban on Islam as a whole: previous surveys (including in North Carolina) have suggested anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of GOP voters would favor “banning Islam” in the U.S. In response to those surveys, conservative commentator Ann Coulter (half-facetiously) challenged PPP to ask Democrats whether they’d favor “banning Christianity.” Jensen obliged in the New Hampshire poll – and found, unsurprisingly, that 90 percent of Democrats would oppose such a thing. (About five percent of Democrats did say they supported “banning Christianity” – but Jensen says pollsters find about the same percentage of Americans say they believe the world is secretly governed by “lizard people.”)

Jensen says there is a somewhat larger contingent of Democrats who favor a blanket ban on Islam – but support for such a measure is still much higher among Republicans.

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