The most recent Meredith Poll, in the field April 25-27, asked North Carolina voters their candidate preferences in the 2022 primary and on a variety of policy issues, including abortion rights, expanding Medicaid, and the legalization of marijuana.
The Republican U.S. Senate primary in North Carolina has garnered most of the attention in the state with former president Donald Trump endorsing Ted Budd and coming to the state to rally for him.
Meredith Poll results indicate a high degree of interest in the primaries generally and the Republican senate primary specifically, but it is worth noting that midterm primary turnout in North Carolina averages about 15% over the last three midterm primary elections. In our survey, over 78% of respondents indicated some interest in voting in the primary elections with almost half indicating that they would vote in the Republican primary.
Of the respondents indicating an interest in voting in the Republican primary, just under one-third (32.7%) indicate they will vote for Ted Budd, while 25.7% indicate they will vote for former Governor Pat McCrory. It is worth noting that over one-third of respondents indicate they were not sure, meaning that the race could still go either way. Budd runs strongest with the most conservative Republican voters, those in rural parts of the state, and those with lower educational attainment, while McCrory does better with more moderate Republican voters and those in urban areas.
“The Trump endorsement of Budd is significant. Public opinion polls of this race during the winter showed McCrory with a lead, but Trump’s presence in the race, as well as heavy spending by independent expenditure organizations, such as the Club for Growth, against McCrory seems to have reversed Budd’s fortunes,” said Meredith Poll Director David McLennan.
The Democratic U.S. Senate primary appears to be a shoo-in for former NC Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley, as her lead over Marcus Williams and the rest of the field is almost 40 points.
In this survey, instead of asking about specific races for the U.S. House of Representatives, we asked the “generic ballot” question—asking whether people generally supported Democratic, Republican, or other party candidates in House races. In this survey, the generic Republican candidates had a 5.9-point lead over the generic Democratic candidates.
McLennan notes: “The generic ballot results point to a very difficult year for Democrats. In previous election cycles, generic Democratic candidates were generally favored by small margins over generic Republican candidates. Since NC-13 appears to be in one swing House district in the state, it seems like the Republican nominee will head into the general election campaign with a slight advantage.”
Much of the Meredith Poll covered voter opinions on policy issues, including abortion laws, expanding medicare, legalizing marijuana, “Don’t Say Gay” bills, Constitutional age limits to hold political office, and laws against distracted driving.
Abortion laws after the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade
Supreme Court watchers now believe that Roe v. Wade may be overturned in the next few weeks with a decision on Whole Women’s Health v. Jackson. If Roe is overturned and the issue of abortion rights is returned to the states, North Carolina may ultimately pass a law that directs women and health care providers about the legal course of action in this area. Many states around the country have preemptively passed legislation either banning abortion or severely limiting the right to have abortions.
Just over half of the North Carolinians surveyed (52.6%) want North Carolina to pass a law keeping the current provisions of Roe or expanding abortion access further. Just under 40 percent of respondents want a law that severely restricts access to abortion or makes it illegal in all circumstances.
This is one of the most partisan findings in the survey. Over three-quarters of Democrats want to keep Roe’s provisions or expand abortion access, while almost 70 percent of Republicans want to restrict access to abortion or make it illegal. Also, over two-thirds of the youngest respondents (18-24 years of age) want to keep Roe’s provisions or expand access to abortions, with older voters being more evenly split between maintaining access to abortion versus restricting or eliminating access.
“The expected decision by the conservative Court to overturn Roe will eventually lead to a very divisive fight over abortion law in North Carolina,” said McLennan. “Currently, the Republicans cannot overturn a veto from Governor Cooper, but if they pick up a few more seats and get a veto-proof majority, we may see North Carolina go the way of Texas or other states and immediately try to restrict abortion rights even if most of the state’s citizens favor protecting abortion rights.”
Over 70 percent of North Carolinians think the state should join the 38 other states in expanding Medicaid and giving health care access to more lower-income citizens. Almost 90 percent of Democrats support this expansion, but a majority of Republicans, including those who consider themselves the most conservative, also support Medicaid expansion.
“Over the last few years, support for expanding Medicaid has increased in the state. There appears to be some movement in the General Assembly, even among Republicans who have argued against Medicaid expansion in the past, to expand access to health care,” McLennan said. “Whether the legislators call it an expansion of Medicaid or something else, the public opinion would suggest this to be a popular move.”
For years bills have been filed in the General Assembly to legalize marijuana in some form—medical or recreational—but these bills have rarely advanced beyond the filing stage. With many states legalizing some or all forms of marijuana use and Congressional leaders, like Chuck Schumer, now talking about some form of marijuana legalization or decriminalization, North Carolina may be on the verge of reconsidering its long-standing hesitancy on this issue.
Over 60 percent of respondents in our survey favor legalizing medical marijuana use or both medical and recreational marijuana use. Only 13 percent of those surveyed wanted to keep all forms of marijuana illegal. The support for some form of marijuana legalization is broad and cuts across all demographic and political lines.
“Don’t Say Gay”
Another “culture war” issue dividing North Carolinians is what is popularly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. This Florida law puts restrictions on public school teachers and employees discussing issues surrounding sexual identity, particularly in the lower grades. It allows parents to sue the school system if they believe teachers and staff members violate this law.
Almost half of those surveyed (47.1%) think that elementary school parents should be able to sue the schools if teachers and staff members discuss issues related to sexual identity. When asked if they supported this kind of law for all grade levels, North Carolinians were evenly split (41.5% support; 41.7% oppose).
Many demographic and political factors influenced support for this type of legislation. A majority of Republicans (almost 60%) support this legislation as it applies to elementary schools with large majorities of self-identified conservatives supporting this. Those identifying as Hispanic/Latinx also supported this type of legislation, as did older respondents.
“Public education will continue to be a political battlefield in 2022 and beyond,” argues McLennan. “Cultural issues such as discussing sexual identity, banning transgender athletes from participating in school sports, and banning books with certain content are all part of the culture wars being fought in electoral politics. As we saw in the Virginia governor’s race last year, Republicans can be very successful in appealing to parental rights on a host of educational topics.”
Constitutional limits on older candidates
With the possibility of two octogenarians—Joe Biden and Donald Trump—being the major party nominees for their respective parties in 2024 and the concerns raised by some about having a sitting president in his 80s, we decided to ask North Carolinians if they thought the Constitution should be amended to put an upper age limit on federal elected officials (e.g., president and members of Congress). Over three-quarters of those surveyed thought an upper limit was advisable. Support for an upper limit was universal with political partisans, people with all levels of educational attainment, and, most interestingly, respondents across all age categories—young to old—supporting a maximum age for serving.
The Meredith Poll also asked what the maximum age should be for those serving in the presidency and Congress. Although a slight plurality of respondents indicated that 50 should be the maximum age for those serving in those offices, a majority of respondents thought the maximum age should be 65-75. Also interesting was that Democrats, women, and those will less educational attainment felt that the maximum age should be younger, while Republicans, males, and those with more education felt the maximum age should be higher.
“My students often ask me why the Constitution sets a minimum age for members of Congress and the presidency, but not a maximum age. I always tell them that the Founders’ life expectancy was so much shorter than the modern life expectancy that they never considered people serving in Congress and, potentially, the White House in their 80s. North Carolinians seem to agree with my students that the eligibility requirements in the Constitution should be revisited,” McLennan said.
Distracted driving laws in N.C.
On the issue of a law to ban the use of handheld devices while driving, North Carolinians remain strongly in favor of such as bill being passed. Well over 90 percent of the respondents believe mobile phones are a major contributor to car accidents. All demographic groups, including the youngest respondents, agreed that using a mobile phone while driving leads to accidents.
As with previous Meredith Polls (2018 and 2021), over 80 percent of respondents support a hands-free law being passed in North Carolina that would make it illegal to hold a mobile device while driving. The support cuts across all demographic and political groups. Likewise, over 80 percent of respondents are frustrated that the state has not passed a distracted driving law, and well over a third of North Carolinians state that they would not vote for a legislator who voted “no” on a distracted driving bill.
McLennan states: “Since we first started asking these questions four years ago, the results have been very consistent—citizens see the negative effects of using a mobile device while driving and strongly support legislation banning such behavior. Although most voters do not put distracted driving legislation at the top of the list of important political issues in an election year, it is significant that a large number of voters are willing to punish elected officials at the ballot box.”
The poll also asked respondents about their satisfaction with the direction of the United States and North Carolina, approval of President Joe Biden and Governor Roy Cooper, and about budget priorities. Read the full report and learn more at meredith.edu/meredith-poll.
About The Meredith Poll
The Meredith Poll conducted a survey of North Carolina registered voters. The online sample–from Dynata–used a census quota to get 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 1,225 respondents, giving us a confidence interval of +/- 2.7%. The survey was in the field April 25-27. The data collection was completed one day prior to early voting starting in N.C. for the primary election.
The Meredith Poll is part of the College’s commitment to civic engagement.