by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
January 13, 2022
RALEIGH – Former president Donald Trump has already stepped into the race to replace retiring North Carolina U.S. Sen. Richard Burr by endorsing Rep. Ted Budd in the Republican primary, yet Trump’s endorsement has so far failed to seal the deal for Budd with likely GOP primary voters.
The latest Civitas Poll shows former Gov. Pat McCrory leading the primary field with 24% of the vote. Budd, who currently serves the 13th District, draws 19%. Former 6th District Congressman Mark Walker takes 7%. Nearly half of GOP primary voters – 49% – remain undecided with four months until primary election day on May 17.
With Walker reportedly considering whether to drop out of the race and instead run for a seat in the U.S. House, the poll, conducted by Cygnal, also asked likely GOP primary voters their preference in a two-way race between McCrory and Budd. Under that scenario, the contest tightens to within the poll’s margin of error. Budd’s support grows to 34%, McCrory’s support grows to 33%, and 33% remain undecided.
Trump’s influence within the North Carolina Republican electorate is clear in the results. He is the overwhelming favorite if the GOP presidential primary were held today, pulling 47% of the vote. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is a distant second, with 19%. When asked how Trump’s endorsement of a U.S. Senate candidate would impact their vote, 50% of GOP primary voters said they would definitely or probably vote for Trump’s pick.
“This poll shows that there are two very different paths to victory for the McCrory and Budd campaigns,” said Donald Bryson, president of the John Locke Foundation. “Budd’s path is more straightforward: he needs the field to narrow. McCrory on the other hand, with better name recognition, needs his campaign to begin putting lead on target, specifically Ted Budd himself and core conservative issues like border security and election security.”
McCrory, who served as governor from 2013 to 2017, shows strength across the state. He leads the race in three out of four regions. McCrory leads in the Triangle (24%), along the coast (27%), and in the Charlotte area (27%). Budd leads the race in central North Carolina (28%). All four regions have a high undecided rate, ranging from 35% in the central portion of the state to 57% in the Triangle.
Republicans will make their Senate choice at a time when nine out of 10 believe the country is on the wrong track, and eight out of 10 disapprove of the job Congress is doing. The poll shows they also have grave concerns about the integrity of elections. Nearly half – 49% – do not believe the 2022 general election will be free and fair. Thirty-one percent are unsure.
Bryson continued, “It’s not an understatement to say that the underpinnings of the American republic are at a flashpoint. When a near-majority of one of the major parties doesn’t believe in the integrity of our elections, then the public will question the legitimacy of any outcome. The Left will say this is a result of the Big Lie, but remember that the first ‘big lie’ was a 2016 Clinton campaign fabrication about Russian collusion that led to impeachment hearings designed to overthrow a duly elected president. The blame lies at the feet of the Left, and specifically attorney Marc Elias.”
Methodology: This probabilistic survey was conducted January 7-9, 2022, with 600 likely GOP primary voters. It has a margin of error of ±3.95%. Known registered voters were interviewed via live calls, email invitation, and SMS. This survey was weighted to a likely GOP primary voter universe.