In N.C., Donald trumps the GOP but not Hillary

With less than a month until North Carolina holds its presidential primary elections, Republican registered voters – and those Independents who lean Republican – favor real estate mogul Donald Trump over all other candidates vying to be the GOP nominee in the 2016 race for the White House, according to the latest Elon University Poll.

But Trump would currently lose a general election match-up to Democratic Party’s frontrunner – former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – among all likely voters.

It’s not that North Carolinians love Clinton, the Elon University Poll found. When respondents were asked their opinions about a series of hypothetical match-ups this fall, Clinton and Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz were in a statistical dead heat – and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio would likely carry North Carolina.

Yet neither Cruz nor Rubio hold the same command as Trump in the crowded Republican field.

And on the Democratic side of the election, despite trailing Hillary Clinton in North Carolina in their party’s primary election, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders would also beat Trump and Cruz in a hypothetical match-up. However, in North Carolina, Sanders would fall to Rubio in a potential match-up.

The Elon University Poll’s live-caller, dual frame (landline and cell phone) survey of 1,530 likely voters was conducted Feb. 15-19, 2016. The survey had a margin of error of 2.51 percentage points for a sample of North Carolinian likely voters weighted by age, gender, race and phone use.

With questions asked just of the 733 registered Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents, the margin of error was 3.62 percentage points. With questions asked of the 728 registered Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents, the margin of error was 3.63 percentage points.

Favored Candidates in the Republican Race

  • Donald Trump: 28 percent
  • Ted Cruz: 19 percent
  • Marco Rubio: 16 percent
  • Ben Carson: 10 percent
  • John Kasich: 7 percent
  • Jeb Bush*: 4 percent
  • Other: 1 percent
  • Undecided: 15 percent

* Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced the suspension of his campaign following the South Carolina primaries on February 20, 2016, one day after the Elon University Poll concluded its calls.

Rubio stands the most to gain in North Carolina as the Republican field narrows. Registered Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents were asked about their second choice for the party’s nominee, and Rubio’s name was cited by 22 percent of respondents. Cruz was named by 18 percent of respondents, and Carson by 13 percent. Nine percent of respondents named Trump as their second choice.

Trump holds another distinction in the latest Elon University Poll: topping the list of “worst choice” for president. Thirty-nine percent of all likely voters described Trump as such. He was followed on the “worst choice” list by Clinton at 29 percent and Sanders at 12 percent.

“As in the rest of the nation, Trump leads North Carolina in having both the most supporters among GOP primary voters and the most detractors among just about everyone else,” said Assistant Professor Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon University Poll. “The paradox of Trump is that he is simultaneously leading the Republican field while being the Republican that voters in both parties are most likely to say would make the worst president of the United States.”

Favored Candidates in the Democratic Race

  • Hillary Clinton: 47 percent
  • Bernie Sanders: 37 percent
  • Other: 1 percent
  • Undecided/Don’t Know: 14 percent

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 10-point lead over Sanders, a United State senator from Vermont, is smaller than it was in November when she led Sanders by 33 points. Clinton does better with those voters who are registered Democrats (58-28%) ; Sanders does better among Independents who lean Democratic (66-25%).

“Consistent with his national surge in recent months, Bernie Sanders has gained ground in North Carolina on Hillary Clinton,” said Assistant Professor Jason Husser, assistant director of the Elon University Poll. “However, Clinton’s numbers suggest she is still the strong favorite to win the Old North State primary. Clinton retains a solid lead among Democratic voters who aren’t white males.”

Hypothetical Head-to-Head Match-Ups

Trump v. Clinton

  • Donald Trump: 41 percent
  • Hillary Clinton: 47 percent
  • Neither/Someone Else: 9 percent
  • Don’t Know: 4 percent

Trump v. Sanders

  • Donald Trump: 40 percent
  • Bernie Sanders: 48 percent
  • Neither/Someone Else: 8 percent
  • Don’t Know: 4 percent

Cruz v. Clinton

  • Ted Cruz: 46 percent
  • Hillary Clinton: 46 percent
  • Neither/Someone Else: 5 percent
  • Don’t Know: 4 percent

Cruz v. Sanders

  • Ted Cruz: 43 percent
  • Bernie Sanders: 47 percent
  • Neither/Someone Else: 6 percent
  • Don’t Know: 4 percent

Rubio v. Clinton

  • Marco Rubio: 48 percent
  • Hillary Clinton: 45 percent
  • Neither/Someone Else: 3 percent
  • Don’t Know: 4 percent

Rubio v. Sanders

  • Marco Rubio: 46 percent
  • Bernie Sanders: 43 percent
  • Neither/Someone Else: 5 percent
  • Don’t Know: 6 percent

North Carolina’s Gubernatorial Race

  • Roy Cooper: 42 percent
  • Pat McCrory: 40 percent
  • Neither/Someone Else: 3 percent
  • Don’t Know: 16 percent

Men slightly favor McCrory, the incumbent Republican, 44-41 percent over Cooper, the state’s Democratic attorney general. Women favor Cooper 42-37 percent. Independents are nearly divided on the race with a slight edge (39-37 percent) in support of Cooper.

“Our recent finding is consistent with almost all publicly available surveys in showing that the race for governor of North Carolina is likely to be historically close and competitive,” Fernandez said. “Both Governor McCrory and Attorney General Cooper should prepare for a tough fight between now and November.”

Supreme Court Vacancy

The Elon University Poll’s February survey started two days after the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. As Scalia’s death created a political stir over President Barack Obama’s role of nominating a successor, the poll asked respondents what they think should happen with a replacement.

  • Obama should nominate now: 57 percent
  • Allow next president to nominate: 35 percent

Democrats (84 percent) and Independents (57 percent) both supported the idea of Obama making a nomination now. Republicans (67 percent) felt the next president should make the nomination.