Elon Poll: Looking ahead to 2016, N.C. favors Clinton over Bush

The first Elon University Poll of the spring semester finds support in the Tar Heel State for two familiar names as several national politicians begin to express interest in succeeding President Barack Obama.


In a hypothetical 2016 matchup between two of the biggest names in American politics, Hillary Clinton is the current favorite to win North Carolina over Jeb Bush in a presidential race that many respondents in the latest Elon University Poll said they would like to see.

Forty-six percent of registered voters said they would vote for Clinton, the Democratic former U.S. secretary of state and wife to former president Bill Clinton, over Jeb Bush, a former Republican governor of Florida and brother to former president George W. Bush, as well as son of former president George H.W. Bush.

Just 40 percent of registered voters supported Bush in the hypothetical matchup, with 11 percent of registered voters indicating someone else.

While Clinton and Bush are the favored candidates in North Carolina by registered voters in their respective parties, neither were the only politicians whose names were mentioned by poll respondents. Among Democratic registered voters, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was the second-most cited potential candidate. Among Republicans, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was the second-most cited name behind Bush.

Other potential Republican nominees who received less than 6 percent of support from Republicans include retired surgeon and author Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Other potential Democratic nominees who received less than 3 percent of support from registered Democrats include Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

The February poll marked a shift for North Carolina voters. In October, more people expressed an interest in seeing former Republican nominee Mitt Romney run for president in 2016 on the GOP ticket. Since then, Romney has publicly stated his decision not to seek the nomination, with Bush and Walker now on the minds of North Carolina voters. Clinton’s popularity has remained relatively constant with Democrats.

The live-caller, dual frame (landline and cell phone) survey of 867 residents – of which, 773 said they were registered to vote – was conducted Feb. 16-20, 2015. They survey had a margin of error of 3.33 percentage points for all respondents and 3.52 percentage points for registered voters.

“Although most voters are not spending much energy thinking about the 2016 presidential election, the survey results from October and February show that voters respond to new information,” said Assistant Professor Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon University Poll. “Jeb Bush and Scott Walker are now leading the pack. Walker’s prominence in the survey is remarkable given that not a single Republican mentioned him in the October survey.”


North Carolina registered voters have warmed a little toward their governor while remaining flat in approval of President Barack Obama, Congress and the North Carolina General Assembly.

Forty-one percent of registered voters approve of the job Gov. Pat McCrory is doing, a 4-point increase since October. An almost equal number of registered voters said they disapproved of his job performance. 

Among registered voters, approval of Obama’s job performance has remained relatively flat for the last six months.  His current approval rating stands at 40 percent. Nearly half of registered voters disapprove of the president, while 10 percent were not sure.  Approval for Congress also remains low among residents and registered voters. Only 13 percent of registered voters approve of the job Congress is doing, which was similar to survey findings in October 2014. 

The Elon Poll also asked respondents about their views toward North Carolina’s two U.S. senators: Republicans Richard Burr and Thom Tillis.

Burr’s approval numbers are at their highest in nearly two years. About 37 percent of registered voters approved of the job Burr is doing, compared to almost 40 percent in April 2013. Nearly a third of registered voters (31.7 percent) were unsure of how they felt about Burr.

Thirty percent of registered voters approve of Tillis, while nearly 40 percent disapprove due to lower support from Democrats (19 percent) and Independents (25 percent). Twenty-nine percent of registered voters were unsure as to how to assess Tillis’ job performance.


The Elon University Poll asked all respondents about a variety of public policy issues making headlines in recent months.

Thinking about childhood diseases, such as measles, mumps, rubella and polio, should parents be required to be vaccinate their children? Or should parents be able to decide not to vaccinate their children?
Parents should be able to choose: 27 percent
All children should be vaccinated: 69 percent
Don’t Know: 3 percent

“North Carolinians’ attitudes toward vaccinations seem to mirror national survey findings,” Fernandez said. “This doesn’t seem to be a partisan issue, but rather a generational issue with older respondents more heavily supporting vaccinations.  Interestingly, the least educated and the most educated respondents were also the most supportive of vaccinations.”

Do you support or oppose gay/same-sex marriage?
Support: 44 percent
Oppose: 47 percent
Don’t Know / No Opinion: 9 percent

In the long run, how do you think the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, will affect the healthcare situation in North Carolina as a whole? Will it make things better, not make much difference, or will it make things worse?
Make Things Better: 35 percent
Not Make Much Difference: 13 percent
Make Things Worse: 47 percent
Don’t Know: 5 percent

Do you think state laws in North Carolina should make access to an abortion more difficult or less difficult? 
More Difficult: 41 percent
Less Difficult: 44 percent
About the Same: 7 percent
Don’t Know: 8 percent

Of those residents who had heard at least a little about “fracking” – the practice of extracting natural gas from underground rock formation:

From what you’ve read and heard, do you support or oppose fracking in North Carolina?
Support: 34 percent
Oppose: 51 percent
Don’t Know / No Opinion: 15 percent