May 2, 2023

With the clock ticking towards the 2024 state primaries in March, the John Locke Foundation conducted a poll of over 700 likely GOP primary voters to see where North Carolinians stand on critical presidential year races.  

The poll found that 55% of likely GOP primary voters in the state would vote for former President Donald Trump if the primary were held today. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was the second choice with 22% of the vote, followed by former Vice President Mike Pence with 8% and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley with 5%. 

Trump saw the highest support among young primary voters (18-34) and primary voters above 65, capturing over 60% of voters in those age demographics. In contrast, less than half of voters aged 35-64 supported Trump. 

In a hypothetical primary GOP gubernatorial race, Lt. Governor Mark Robinson was the clear frontrunner with 43% of the vote, followed by former Congressman Mark Walker at 9%, State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler at 8%, and State Treasurer Dale Folwell at 4%. Many voters, however, are not committed to a candidate for governor, with 42% of women and 31% of men remaining undecided. 

“Mark Robinson’s lead in the gubernatorial race is roughly correlative with his strong name recognition and favorability among likely GOP primary voters,” said John Locke Foundation President Donald Bryson. “However, with over a third of voters still undecided, there is still time for other candidates to make their case to voters over the next 10 months.” 

The poll also surveyed for the 2024 Attorney General race and the State Labor Commissioner race. Tom Murry led Ray Starling in a primary for Attorney General by seven points, and Jon Hardister led Ben Moss by four points in the match-up for Labor Commissioner. However, both races were over 70% undecided. 

Medicaid expansion, which many Republican lawmakers have long opposed until recently, is also set to take effect in 2024. GOP primary voters are divided on expansion, with a plurality (48%) in support, while a sizable 41% remain in opposition.  

Bryson added, “The opinion of Republican primary voters on Medicaid Expansion is interesting because a plurality support expansion, until it becomes associated with an agreement with Gov. Roy Cooper (D), at which point 34% say they’re less likely to support a legislator that voted for expansion.” 

One measure that a clear majority of these voters support, however, is adding a right-to-work amendment to the state constitution. More than six out of ten respondents support the idea, and only 10% oppose the prospective amendment, which could become a major issue in the primary race for Labor Commissioner. 

Other questions voters were asked included favorability of US Senators Thom Tillis and Ted Budd, opinions on potential gubernatorial candidates, and conservative versus populist self-identification.