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Elon Poll: The Doc is ‘in’ in North Carolina

Retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson commands a double-digit lead over his nearest competitor in North Carolina’s Republican presidential primary race, according to the latest Elon University Poll, and he trumps former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in a hypothetical matchup in next fall’s general election.

When Carson faces Clinton, he wins 48-44 percent, though his lead over Clinton has shrunk since September when Carson led by 11 points. His support remains strong among self-described Independents, who prefer the Republican candidate by a 57-32 percent margin.

However, Carson’s support among black respondents has been cut in half over the past six weeks, falling from 15 percent in September to just 7 percent in the latest poll.

And while Carson is leading over Clinton, the latest poll found that he’s not the only Republican who might defeat her in a hypothetical matchup. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio also holds a 46-45 advantage over Clinton, despite his 10 percent support in the Republican primary.

The Elon University Poll’s live-caller, dual frame (landline and cell phone) survey of 1,234 residents – of which 1,040 said they were registered to vote – was conducted Oct. 29-Nov. 2, 2015. The survey had a margin of error of 3.04 percentage points for registered voters; 4.54 percentage points among Republican and Republican-leaning voters; and 4.32 percentage points among Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters.

“It appears that a strong performance in the last GOP debate has pushed Ben Carson to the front of the crowded GOP pack of presidential candidates, at least among Republicans in North Carolina,” said Assistant Professor Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon University Poll. “Nearly a third of registered Republican voters here said they plan on voting for Carson, more than 10 points ahead of Donald Trump, his closest primary competitor.”


2016 Republican Presidential Primary

  • Ben Carson: 31 percent
  • Donald Trump: 19 percent
  • Marco Rubio: 10 percent
  • Ted Cruz: 10 percent
  • Jeb Bush: 5 percent
  • Carly Fiorina: 3 percent
  • Mike Huckabee: 3 percent
  • Rand Paul: 2 percent
  • Chris Christie: 2 percent
  • Other: 2 percent
  • John Kasich: 1 percent
  • Lindsey Graham: 1 percent
  • Bobby Jindal: 0 percent
  • George Pataki: 0 percent
  • Rick Santorum: 0 percent

Twelve percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters said they were undecided on which candidate they will support.

2016 Democratic Presidential Primary

  • Hillary Clinton: 57 percent
  • Bernie Sanders: 24 percent
  • Martin O’Malley: 3 percent
  • Other: 2 percent

Fourteen percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters said they were undecided on which candidate they will support.

“The congressional committee hearings on Benghazi have not hurt Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers, at least among Democratic voters,” said Assistant Professor Jason Husser, assistant director of the Elon University Poll. “Clinton has extended her large lead against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to 33 points.”

Head-to-Head Match-Ups

Q: If the 2016 presidential election was between Republican Ben Carson & Democrat Hilary Clinton who would you vote for?

  • Carson: 48 percent
  • Clinton: 44 percent
  • Neither/Someone Else: 4 percent
  • Don’t Know: 5 percent

Q: If the 2016 presidential election was between Republican Marco Rubio & Democrat Hilary Clinton who would you vote for?

  • Rubio: 46 percent
  • Clinton: 45 percent
  • Neither/Someone Else: 4 percent
  • Don’t Know: 5 percent

Q: If the 2016 presidential election was between Republican Donald Trump & Democrat Hilary Clinton who would you vote for?

  • Clinton: 50 percent
  • Trump: 40 percent
  • Neither/Someone Else: 8 percent
  • Don’t Know: 3 percent


Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper has pulled ahead of incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in a match-up between the two North Carolina political leaders. Cooper leads McCrory 45-40 percent, the first time the Elon University Poll has found him to be winning a head-to-head matchup in the 2016 gubernatorial contest.

Cooper now does better with Independents (40-36%). This is a reversal from September when McCrory had support of 44 percent of Independents and Cooper had only 39 percent.


Approval of the president among registered voters has increased three points to 44.5 percent since September. Although approval has increase for the president, more voters in North Carolina disapprove (47.8%) of the job Obama is doing than approve.

Over half of Independents disapprove of the president’s job performance. However, only 1 percent of African Americans disapprove of Obama’s performance.


The Elon University Poll conducts frequent statewide surveys on issues of importance to North Carolinians. Information from these polls is shared with media, citizens and public officials to facilitate informed public policymaking through the better understanding of citizens’ opinions and attitudes.