HPU Poll: Clinton Leads Democratic Primary; Trump, Cruz and Rubio Have Most GOP Support

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HIGH POINT, N.C., Feb. 8, 2016 – The High Point University Poll has found former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the lead in North Carolina’s Democratic Primary for President of the United States over Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. On the Republican side, more of North Carolina’s likely Republican primary voters support Donald Trump. Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are his closest competitors.

The survey of likely Democratic primary voters found that a majority (55 percent) support Secretary Clinton, and 29 percent favor Sen. Sanders. The other two candidates on the ballot – former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and California businessman Rocky De La Fuente – received virtually no support. Gov. O’Malley suspended his campaign after the Iowa Caucuses on Feb. 1, during the administration of the HPU Poll.

On the Republican side, 26 percent of likely primary voters said they would support Donald Trump, while Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida received support from 22 and 20 percent, respectively. Fourth place went to Ben Carson, who received support from nine percent of the likely Republican primary voters. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky have suspended their campaigns, but remain on the North Carolina primary ballot.

“In North Carolina, the likely Democratic voters surveyed seemed to favor Secretary Clinton over Sen. Sanders,” said Brian McDonald, associate director of the HPU Poll and adjunct professor. “The March 15 North Carolina primary is about a month away, so voters’ support can shift. Voter turnout will be important for North Carolina Republicans, where the field among the top GOP contenders is fairly close.”

The HPU Poll also asked about likely voter preferences for the Republican and Democratic nominations for North Carolina Governor and U.S. Senate for North Carolina. On the Republican side, the incumbents received the most support by far. Seventy-five percent of likely Republican primary voters say they favor Gov. Pat McCrory over the other candidates on the ballot, Charles Kenneth Moss and C. Robert Brawley. Incumbent U.S. Sen. Richard Burr received support from 46 percent of likely primary voters. Among Sen. Burr’s competitors, only Greg Brannon received double digit support (10 percent) and more than one-third (37 percent) of likely voters expressed no preference or did not offer any response.

Among Democrats, the races for the Gubernatorial and U.S. Senate nominations were more complicated. A near majority (49 percent) of likely Democratic primary voters supported North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, and 11 percent supported Kenneth Spaulding. Forty percent of likely voters, however, expressed no preference or did not offer a response.  Among potential Democratic nominees for U.S. Senate, voters appeared to have little information about their choices as former state representative Deborah Ross received the highest level of support (19 percent), and more than two-thirds of respondents offered no choice among the four candidates.

As a group, likely Republican primary voters appear more engaged in the election and more interested in candidates with new ideas and different approaches than likely Democratic voters. More than three-quarters (76 percent) of Republicans said they had been given presidential candidates a lot of thought compared to 60 percent of Democrats. A majority (58 percent) of Republicans said it was more important for a presidential candidate to have new ideas and a different approach than experience and a proven record, compared to only 38 percent of likely Democratic voters who said they felt that way.

“Both Republican and Democratic primary voters report high levels of engagement as well as interest in candidates presenting new ideas – particularly from likely Republican primary voters,” says Dr. Martin Kifer, director of the HPU Poll and assistant professor of political science. “This may suggest that voters overall are looking for significant changes in government. It remains to be seen, however, whether that urge for change translates to the statewide level here in North Carolina. Even the most active Democratic voters do not have clear preferences concerning their possible nominees for U.S. Senate and Governor.”

NC Presidential Nominees - Rep vs Dem

Republican Primary Voters – N.C. Primary Support (February 2016)

(Note: The candidates are presented in the order they appear on the NC primary ballot)

If the Republican primary for President of the United States were being held today, which of the following candidates would you support?

Mike Huckabee – 2 percent
John R. Kasich – 2 percent
Rand Paul – 2 percent
Marco Rubio – 20 percent
Rick Santorum – less than 1 percent
Donald J. Trump – 26 percent
Jeb Bush – 3 percent
Ben Carson – 9 percent
Chris Christie – 2 percent
Ted Cruz – 22 percent
Carly Fiorina – 1 percent
Jim Gilmore – 0 percent
(Don’t know/No preference/Refused) – 10 percent

[NOTE: This survey listed candidates’ names in the order they appear on the primary ballot.  North Carolina law requires that candidates who have dropped out after ballots are printed must stay on the ballot. Candidates Huckabee, Paul, and Santorum dropped out during the administration of this survey.]

 

And which of the following candidates would be your second choice?

Mike Huckabee – 3 percent
John R. Kasich – 4 percent
Rand Paul – 2 percent
Marco Rubio – 20 percent
Rick Santorum – 1 percent
Donald J. Trump – 13 percent
Jeb Bush – 5 percent
Ben Carson – 12 percent
Chris Christie – 3 percent
Ted Cruz – 18 percent
Carly Fiorina – 4 percent
Jim Gilmore – less than 1 percent
(Don’t know/No preference/Refused) – 15 percent

 

If the Republican primary for Governor of North Carolina were being held today, which of the following candidates would you favor?

Pat McCrory – 75 percent
Charles Kenneth Moss – 3 percent
Robert Brawley – 2 percent
(Don’t know/No preference/Refused) – 20 percent

 

If the Republican primary for United States Senate were being held today, which of the following candidates would you favor?

Larry Holmquist – 2 percent
Paul Wright – 5 percent
Greg Brannon – 10 percent
Richard Burr – 46 percent
(Don’t know/No preference/Refused) – 37 percent

(Likely Republican primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 477 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

 

Democratic Primary Voters – N.C. Primary Support (February 2016)

(Note:  The candidates are presented in the order they appear on the NC primary ballot)

If the Democratic primary for President of the United States were being held today, which of the following candidates would you support?

Martin J. O’Malley – 1 percent
Bernie Sanders – 29 percent
Hillary Clinton 55 percent
Rocky De La Fuente 0 percent
(Don’t know/No preference/Refused) 15 percent

[NOTE: This survey listed candidates’ names in the order they appear on the primary ballot.  North Carolina law requires that candidates who have dropped out after ballots are printed must stay on the ballot. Candidate O’Malley dropped out during the administration of this survey.]

 

If the Democratic primary for Governor of North Carolina were being held today, which of the following candidates would you favor?

Kenneth Spaulding – 11 percent
Roy Cooper – 49 percent
(Don’t know/No preference/Refused) – 40 percent

 

If the Democratic primary for United States Senate were being held today, which of the following candidates would you favor?

Ernest T. Reeves – 4 percent
Chris Rey – 5 percent
Deborah K. Ross 19 percent
Kevin D. Griffin 6 percent
(Don’t know/No preference/Refused) 66 percent

 

(Likely Democratic primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 478 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

 

Likely Voters – Engagement in N.C. Presidential Primary (February 2016)

How much thought, if any, have you given to candidates who may be running for president in 2016? A lot, some, not much, or none at all?

 

Likely Democratic Primary Voters

A lot – 60 percent
Some – 28 percent
Not much – 8 percent
None at all – 3 percent
(Don’t know/refused) less than 1 percent

(Likely Democratic primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 478 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

 

Likely Republican Primary Voters

A lot – 76 percent
Some – 18 percent
Not much – 4 percent
None at all – 2 percent
(Don’t know/refused) – less than 1 percent

(Likely Republican primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 477 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

NC - Rep qualities vs Dem qualities

Likely Voters – Preference for Experience or Different Approach (February 2016)

Which of the following is more important to you in a presidential candidate: experience and a proven record or new ideas and a different approach?

 

Likely Democratic Primary Voters

Experience and a proven record – 50 percent
New ideas and a different approach – 38
(Both) – 9 percent
(Don’t know/refused) – 3 percent

(Likely Democratic primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 478 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

 

Likely Republican Primary Voters

Experience and a proven record – 31 percent
New ideas and a different approach – 58 percent
(Both) – 10 percent
(Don’t know/refused) – 2 percent

(Likely Republican primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 477 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

 

The most recent HPU Poll was fielded by live interviewers at the High Point University Survey Research Center (SRC) calling on Jan. 30 – Feb. 4, 2016. SRC Interviewers completed interviews with 478 likely Democratic primary voters and 477 likely Republican primary voters on cell phones and landlines. The SRC identified respondents using a Registration Based Sample (RBS) where all respondents passed a screen gauging likelihood of voting in March 2016 were selected from a database of registered voters such that respondents who had registered prior to 2008 had voted in the 2008 and 2012 presidential primaries as well as the 2014 general election; respondents registered between 2008 and 2012 had voted in the 2012 presidential primary and 2014 general election; respondents who had registered between 2012 and 2014 voted in the 2014 primary or the 2014 general election; and the remainder of the sample had registered between 2014 and 2016. The Survey Research Center contracted with Survey Sampling International to acquire this sample. Each sample of likely voters has an estimated margin of sampling error of approximately 4.5 percentage points. The data is weighted toward population estimates for age, gender, and race. In addition to sampling error, factors such as question wording and other methodological choices in conducting survey research can introduce additional error into the findings of opinion polls. Details from this survey are available at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/files/2016/02/43memoA.pdf.

Further results and methodological details from the most recent survey and past studies can be found at the Survey Research Center website at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/. The materials online include past press releases as well as memos summarizing the findings (including approval ratings) for each poll since 2010.

The HPU Poll reports methodological details in accordance with the standards set out by AAPOR’s Transparency Initiative, and the HPU Survey Research Center is a Charter Member of the Initiative. For more information, see

http://transparency.aapor.org/index.php/transparency.

You can follow the HPU Poll on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HPUSurveyCenter.

Dr. Martin Kifer, assistant professor of political science, serves as the director of the HPU Poll, and Brian McDonald serves as the associate director of the HPU Poll.

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