The most recent Meredith Poll, in the field September 16-19, 2023, asked North Carolina voters about their preferences in the upcoming primary, ability to recognize political figures, and opinions on North Carolina’s new abortion law and its impact on their vote.
Highlights of the Meredith Poll findings are below. For complete results, view the full report
Primary Election Preferences
Republican Presidential Primary
The Meredith Poll found that former President Donald Trump holds a commanding lead over his Republican challengers in North Carolina. Over half (51%) of respondents indicating they were likely to vote in the Republican primary next March supported Trump with Ron DeSantis being the only other candidate to have double digit support (13%). Nine of the 14 declared candidates garnered less than three percent of the Republican voters’ preferences.
“Trump’s lead in North Carolina seems insurmountable. The four indictments of Trump seem to have little impact on North Carolina primary voters and the efforts of his Republican challengers appear futile now,” said Meredith Poll Director David McLennan.
Republican Gubernatorial Primary
Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson holds a large lead over his Republican challengers for the Republican nomination for governor. Just over one-third of likely Republican primary voters (34%) indicate a preference for Robinson with the other announced candidates – Dale Folwell, Jesse Thomas, Mark Walker, and Andy Wells–garnering 3-7 percent of the respondents’ support. Almost one-half of those who indicated that they were likely to vote in the March primary (44%) said they were undecided.
In the Meredith Poll survey, Robinson does well with all groups of Republicans, but particularly with the most conservative primary voters, older Republicans, and those with less education.
“Mark Robinson has a significant lead with just under six months until voting begins in the N.C. primary, but with many Republican voters indicating that they are undecided means that this could be a competitive primary election. Robinson’s large lead reflects his name recognition and that the other candidates are not well known to voters,” said McLennan.
Democratic Gubernatorial Primary
Attorney General Josh Stein enjoys a 3-to-1 lead over newly declared challenger Mike Morgan for the Democratic nomination for governor. One-third of those who indicated that they would be likely to vote in the Democratic primary next March expressed support for Stein, while 11 percent supported Morgan. Almost half of likely Democratic primary voters (46%), however, indicated they were undecided.
Although Stein is favored among most demographic groups, Morgan shows strength among Black voters, younger voters, and evangelical voters.
“Stein has been running for the Democratic nomination for governor for quite some time and has built up a large campaign war chest. These apparent advantages have not guaranteed Stein the nomination with Morgan showing some strength after very little time as an announced candidate and a big deficit in fundraising,” said McLennan.
Identification of Political Leaders in North Carolina
Most North Carolinians would not recognize political leaders from North Carolina if they passed them on the street. As a test, the Meredith Poll asked respondents match names of prominent political leaders from the state with their photographs. With the exception of Roy Cooper, who was correctly identified by 80 percent of the respondents, no other political figure was identified by even half of the respondents. In fact, Mark Robinson was correctly identified by 44 percent of the respondents, while others, including Republican leaders of both chambers of the state legislature and those running for governor in 2024 were correctly identified by less than one-in-five North Carolinians. Except for Cooper and Robinson, around 70 percent of the respondents did not even offer a guess as to who the political leader was, opting to choose “don’t know” as their selection.
“Given how powerful these political figures are in North Carolina, it is somewhat disconcerting, but not surprising, that most people in the state do not know what these people look like,” said McLennan. “The good news for most of them is that they can go to the grocery store and not be bothered while shopping.”
New Abortion Law and Its Impact on Voting in 2024
Approval of New 12 Week Ban on Abortion Law
Following the 2022 Dobbs decision by the Supreme Court, allowing states to determine laws relating to abortion, North Carolina enacted a law restricting legal abortions to 12 weeks or less (with exceptions). North Carolinians are almost equally divided over this new law with 47 percent approving of the new law and 45 percent disapproving of it.
As expected, Republicans support the new law by a large margin and Democrats are opposed to the new law by an equally large margin. Surprisingly, however, older voters disapprove of the new law much more so than do younger voters and there is a relatively small difference in how men and women view the new abortion law.
“The fact that North Carolinians are divided over the recently passed abortion law is not surprising,” said McLennan. “It is somewhat surprising that younger voters support the new law to the degree they do. That cuts against the popular narrative that the issue of abortion may drive young people to the polls in 2024 and this will give Democrats a large advantage.”
Abortion as a Motivating Factor to Voters
Two-thirds of respondents indicated that abortion issues were a very important or important factor in motivating them to vote in 2024. All demographic groups indicated that the abortion issue was a motivating factor in their decision to vote in 2024. The only group that stood out for how intensely abortion appears to be a motivating factor is those self- identified as “very liberal,” in which well over 80 percent stated the issue was motivating.
Although abortion appears to be an important issue in the campaign cycle, our respondents continue to see economic issues as the ones they want to see candidates talk about on the campaign trail. The issue of abortion was identified by 14 percent of our respondents as an issue that people wanted to hear candidates talk more about, while 40 percent of the respondents identified economic issues as the one issue they wanted candidates to discuss more. In fact, abortion was tied for second with immigration and not significantly higher than crime and gun rights as issues North Carolina voters want to hear candidates address.
Of the demographic groups, Democrats and those self-identifying as liberal were more likely to rank the abortion issue closer to economic issues in terms of what they want candidates to talk about more. All other groups showed a clear preference for candidates focusing on economic issues on the campaign trail.
“The 2022 Dobbs decision and the resulting state laws about abortion are clearly important for many voters in 2024,” said McLennan, “but we should be cautious in referring to abortion as a ‘game changer’ in next year’s elections. North Carolinians are equally divided about the state’s new abortion law, so we may not see the abortion issue swinging a lot of races to the Democratic column. Plus, we need to be reminded of the old James Carville quote: ‘It is the economy, stupid.’ Most voters, even those who may see abortion as an important issue, continue to prioritize economic issues at the top of issues affecting their voting decisions.”
In addition to the questions above, the Meredith Poll explored voter satisfaction with the direction of the nation and state, job approval ratings for leading political figures, and opinions on women as leaders.
The Meredith Poll surveyed North Carolina registered voters. The online sample–from Dynata–used a quota based on the most recent U.S. Census estimates of North Carolina to sample our respondents. After the survey was completed, we weighted the survey for gender, party affiliation, geographic location, race and ethnicity, and education so that our sample most closely resembles North Carolina. The sample had 801 respondents, giving us a confidence interval of +/- 3.5%. The survey was in the field from September 16-19, 2023.
About Meredith Poll
The Meredith Poll asks North Carolinians their opinions on a variety of social and political public issues. It is housed in the Department of History, Political Science, and International Studies at Meredith College, one of the largest women’s colleges in the Southeast. The Meredith Poll was launched in the spring of 2015 as part of Meredith’s commitment to civic engagement.