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Elon Poll: Cooper Pulls Ahead in N.C. Gubernatorial Race, See Other Poll Questions

Support is growing for Democrat Roy Cooper in his bid to unseat incumbent Republican Pat McCrory in North Carolina’s 2016 gubernatorial election, according to the latest Elon University Poll.

Cooper, the state’s current attorney general, leads McCrory 48-42 percent among registered voters – his largest lead since the Elon University Poll started asking respondents about a hypothetical match-up.

Nearly 43 percent of registered voters said they approved of the job the attorney general is doing, compared to almost 27 percent who disapprove. Thirty percent of respondents said they didn’t know or were unsure about the job Cooper is doing.

About 37 percent of registered voters approve of the job McCrory is doing, compared to 49 percent who said they disapprove of the way he is handling his job. Nearly 14 percent said they didn’t know or were unsure of their assessment of the governor. This is the lowest approval rating for the governor observed by the Elon Poll since April 2014.

The live-caller, dual frame (landline and cell phone) survey of 692 residents of North Carolina was conducted from April 10-15, 2016. Of those respondents, 621 said they were registered to vote. Survey results in this news release present responses from those self-identified registered voters and has a margin of error of 3.93 percentage points.


North Carolinians were polled as the state made national news for legislation known as HB2, a state law overturning the city of Charlotte’s recent efforts to allow transgender people to use public restrooms that align with their gender identities. McCrory signed the legislation and has since issued an executive order that attempts to mitigate some of the criticism state leaders received because of the law.

However, nearly half of registered voters in North Carolina said they believe state lawmakers should prohibit cities from passing ordinances such as those allowing transgender people to use bathrooms that best match their gender identity, according to the latest poll.

At the same time, only 39 percent of registered voters say cities should be allowed to pass those policies.  Eleven percent don’t know how they feel about the topic.

Q: Recently the city of Charlotte passed an ordinance allowing transgender individuals to use public facilities, such as bathrooms, that best match their gender identity. The state then passed a law prohibiting such local ordinances. In terms of governmental authority, should cities be allowed to adopt such policies or should the state government ban such ordinances?

–        State should prohibit cities from passing such ordinances: 49 percent

–        Cities should be allowed to pass such policies: 39 percent

–        Don’t know: 11 percent

While more North Carolinians say they believe the state legislature acts within its rights on ordinances like HB2, the opposite is true when it comes to the minimum wage. Half of registered voters indicate that cities should be able to set a local minimum hourly wage above that established by the state – and 44 percent favor state law requiring cities to have the same wage.

HB2 prohibits local municipalities from setting their own minimum wages.

Q: Should cities and municipalities in North Carolina be able to create a local minimum hourly wage that is above the state’s minimum? Or should state law require all cities to have the same minimum wage?

–        Cities should be able to raise minimum wage: 50 percent

–        State law should require cities to have the same wage: 44 percent

–        Don’t know: 6 percent

And 65 percent of registered voters say that wage should be more than $10 an hour, the poll found.

“Not only does HB2 prohibit local governments from expanding nondiscrimination laws to include transgender individuals, but it also bans cities from setting a minimum wage higher than the state’s,” said Assistant Professor Jason Husser, assistant director of the Elon University Poll. “Most voters oppose such local minimum wage bans and believe cities should be able to create a minimum wage that reflects the cost of living in that city.”


Nearly two-thirds of born-again Christians – more than any other group of religious faithful – support state lawmakers in prohibiting cities from passing ordinances such as Charlotte’s “bathroom bill.” Forty-nine percent of Catholics support the state’s prohibition, followed by 46 percent of “other Christians.”

Meanwhile, 63 percent of those who self-identify as “not religious” believe cities should be allowed to pass their own ordinances with state government interference.

Differences in support also break along educational attainment. Only those with a graduate degree were more likely to oppose the state’s position. At least 50 percent of each other group, from those with less than a high school education to those who have earned a college bachelor’s degree, said the state should prohibit such ordinances.

Support for the state also is stronger among men. Fifty-four percent of men believe the state should prohibit cities from such ordinances, while 45 percent of women said likewise.

“Although over 60 percent of registered voters believe the state government has intruded into areas of law and regulation that are better left to the municipal governments, more voters said the state should ban cities from passing ordinances allowing transgender individuals from using bathrooms that best match their gender identity,” said Assistant Professor Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon University Poll.


Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Richard Burr holds a 37-33 percent lead over his Democratic challenger Deborah Ross in this fall’s U.S. Senate election. Both command strong support from their respective party bases; Independents are currently breaking in Burr’s favor (34-27 percent, with 15 percent saying they don’t know who they’ll support).

Burr’s job approval rating stands at 29 percent while his disapproval is at 41 percent. Twenty-nine percent of respondents didn’t know how they felt about the way he handles his job as U.S. senator.

“North Carolina has a history of not reelecting its U.S. senators,” Fernandez said. “Democrat Kay Hagan lost in 2014 and it was Hagan who had made Elizabeth Dole a one-term senator before that. Several others had all lost reelection bids and were one-term senators prior to Dole.

“Burr is one of the few senators in recent history, besides the late Jesse Helms, to have won reelection, and many political analysts believe he has a good shot at repeating that in 2016.”


The Elon University Poll also asked respondents about their favored candidates in the 2016 presidential election.

While former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won North Carolina’s Democratic presidential primary in March over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, it was Sanders who would today defeat both Republican frontrunner Donald Trump by 51-38 margin, and Sen. Ted Cruz by a 49-39 margin, in hypothetical general election match-ups in North Carolina. Sanders draws his biggest levels of support from Independents, women and African-Americans in those head-to-head match-ups.

Clinton, too, would defeat Trump by a 45-39 percent spread in a hypothetical general election match-up. However, she wouldn’t defeat Cruz, who holds a 44-41 percent edge.


The Elon University Poll asked likely voter respondents about a variety of public policy issues. Pollsters read several statements and asked whether respondents strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed, or strongly disagree with the statement. Among the questions:

The state should provide aid to low-income college students, even if I have to pay more taxes.

Strongly Agree: 12 percent

Agree: 47 percent

Disagree: 30 percent

Strongly Disagree: 6 percent

Don’t Know/Unsure: 6 percent

I would be willing to pay more taxes to increase money for public schools.

Strongly Agree: 18 percent

Agree: 50 percent

Disagree: 24 percent

Strongly Disagree: 5 percent

Don’t Know/Unsure: 3 percent

The state should reduce taxes, even if this means spending less on social programs like healthcare and unemployment benefits.

Strongly Agree: 7 percent

Agree: 22 percent

Disagree: 48 percent

Strongly Disagree: 18 percent

Don’t Know/Unsure: 5 percent

North Carolina should invest more in local roads, even if I have to pay more taxes.

Strongly Agree: 9 percent

Agree:  46 percent

Disagree: 33 percent

Strongly Disagree: 6 percent

Don’t Know/Unsure: 5 percent

Attacking or victimizing a person because of their gender or sexual identity should be a hate crime.

Strongly Agree: 35 percent

Agree: 45 percent

Disagree: 12 percent

Strongly Disagree: 2 percent

Don’t Know/Unsure: 5 percent

North Carolina should open up more of its lands and waters for energy development, such as oil and gas.

Strongly Agree: 9 percent

Agree: 37 percent

Disagree: 32 percent

Strongly Disagree: 15 percent

Don’t Know/Unsure: 7 percent


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.