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.