North Carolina 2020: Biden with Early Lead on Trump and Democratic Primary Field

A new Emerson Poll in North Carolina finds President Trump’s popularity underwater, with 52% disapproval and 41% approval (May 31-June 3, +/-3.1%). Trump received 50% of the vote to Clinton’s 46% in 2016, carrying the Tar Heel State and its 15 electoral votes. While the President remains popular within the Republican Party – Trump leads former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld 88% to 12%- the President is tied or trailing against four of the top five Democratic opponents, faring the worst against former Vice-President Joe Biden, who is ahead of Trump 56% to 44%.

In the Democratic primary, scheduled to a part of Super Tuesday on March 3, 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden leads with 39%, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders at 22% and Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 15%. Rounding out the top 5 are Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 8% and Sen. Kamala Harris at 5% (n=397, +/-4.9%).

Spencer Kimball, Director of Emerson Polling explained, “a trend of Biden and Sanders primary voters is beginning to emerge: among other variables, a Biden voter is more likely to be a registered Democrat as compared to the Sanders voter who is more likely to be Independent.” Kimball adds, “if this trend holds, those states that have closed primary/caucuses will present a distinct advantage for Biden, as Independents won’t be able to vote in those contests”.

Among those registered as Democrats, Biden leads Sanders 42% to 19%, but among Independent voters, Sanders leads Biden 34% to 26%. According to the NC Secretary of State office, about 37% of the state is registered as Democrat, and 32% are registered as unaffiliated (aka independent voters).

Biden leads among white voters with 29%, followed by Sanders at 25% and Warren at 20%. Yet,  among African-American voters, Biden leads with 58% of the vote, followed by Sanders at 14% and Harris at 7%.

Sanders leads among 18-29 year olds with 38% of the vote, followed by Warren with 18% and Biden in third with 11%. Sanders and Biden are virtually tied 34% to 32% among 30-49 year olds, but with voters over 50, Biden leads Sanders 50% to 10%.

Among those with an annual household income below $50,000, Sanders leads with 40%, followed by Biden with 27% and Warren with 13%. Of those with an annual household income between $50,000 and $100,000 a year, Biden leads with 44%, followed by Warren with 15% and Sanders with 14%. Among voters with a household income over $100,000 a year, Biden also leads with 42%, followed by Warren with 21% and Buttigieg with 11%.

Democratic primary voters are still open to a different candidate, with 62% saying there’s a chance they could change their mind and vote for someone else. Among individual candidates, 53% of Biden voters and 41% of Sanders voters said they will definitely vote for those candidates. Conversely, 80% of Warren voters and 88% of Buttigieg voters said they could change their minds.


A plurality of voters, 32%, identify the economy as the single most important issue in deciding for whom they will vote for President. The economy is followed by healthcare at 18%, social issues at 14%, and immigration at 13%. Impeachment is the most important issue for only 4% of voters.  

Among Democratic primary voters, healthcare (27%) and social issues (23%) are most important followed by the economy (16%) and the environment (14%). For Republican Primary voters, 46% said the economy, followed by immigration (24%) which was the only other issue in double digits. Among just general election voters economy (36%), healthcare (20%), immigration (10%) and the environment (8%) round out the top 4 issues.

Kimball explains “this data suggests that if the election comes down to issues, the Democratic Presidential candidate might have a more difficult time crafting a general election message, as both Republicans and Independents rank the economy as the most important issue, while Democratic voters rank it third behind healthcare and social issues”.

When asked about recent abortion legislation in the states of Alabama, Georgia and Missouri, a majority of voters (56%) oppose North Carolina passing similar restrictions, with 32% supporting such legislation. 12% of voters are unsure on the subject. Republicans buck the trend with 56% in support of similar legislation, while 29% of Independents and 14% of Democrats support similar legislation. There is no difference based on gender.

On international relations, a majority of voters (51%) oppose sending troops to Iran, with 17% supporting sending troops, and 32% unsure on this issue. There is little support for troop intervention at the present time, with Democrats and Independents opposing sending troops by  6 to 1. Republicans are split, with 30% in support and 27% opposed, 42% are undecided on sending the troops to Iran question.

2020 National Convention Approval

Voters are generally in support of the 2020 Republican Convention being held in Charlotte, with 43% approval, 18% disapproval, and 38% unsure. While Republicans approve 72% to 5% and Independents approve 44% to 15%, Democrats disapprove 33% to 19%.  Those in the 12th Congressional district, located in the city of Charlotte and surrounding areas, are the least excited region within the state about the convention: 41% disapproving and 28% approving of the location site.

In an Emerson poll in Wisconsin from March, voters were overall more supportive of the Democratic convention being held in the Badger state, with 59% approval and 16% disapproval.  Hosting the convention had bipartisan support, with 35% of Republicans supporting and 29% opposing the convention being held in Wisconsin.

2020 Statewide Races

Republican Senator Thom Tillis appears to be in a vulnerable position facing re-election against potential Democratic Opponent, State Senator Erica Smith, who leads Tillis 46% to 39%, with 15% of voters undecided.

In the Governor’s race, the incumbent Democrat Roy Cooper leads his potential Republican opponent Lt. Governor Dan Forest, 52% to 38%, with 10% undecided.

Caller ID

The North Carolina Statewide Emerson College poll was conducted May 31-June 3, 2019 under the Supervision of Professor Spencer Kimball. The sample consisted of registered voters, n=932, with a Credibility Interval (CI) similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 3.1 percentage points. The data was weighted  by gender, party, ethnicity, education,region, and age based on 2016 voter model. It is important to remember that subsets based on gender, age, party breakdown, ethnicity and region carry with them higher margins of error, as the sample size is reduced. Data was collected using both an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines only (n=527) and an online panel provided by Amazon Turk (n=405). 

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Transparency Initiative

AAPOR: Comparing Online Panels and IVR Samples

View Professor Spencer Kimball’s 2019 AAPOR presentation on three studies:

Study 1: Polls and Mode of Data Collection

Study 2: Online Panel “House Effects”

Study 3: Mix Mode and Midterms 2018

Full Presentation



May National Poll: Biden Back In the Lead for the Democratic Nomination

A new Emerson National Poll finds former Vice President Joe Biden with a bump from his official entrance into the race, taking back the lead over Senator Bernie Sanders. The poll finds Biden with 33% and Sanders with 25%. The April Emerson Poll had Sanders ahead of Biden 29% to 24% making this a 13 point swing in favor of the former Vice President. Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Elizabeth Warren are tied for 3rd with each getting 10% of the vote, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg rounds out the top 5 with 8%. No other candidate in the field clears 3% (n=429, +/-4.7%, MM, May 10-13, 2019).

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Texas Monthly: Takeaways From Emerson’s Texas Senate and Presidential Poll

This week, Emerson College released a poll of Texas that looked at a handful of issues and races in the state. The grabbiest headline in the bunch was a head-to-head poll of potential one-on-one matchups of various Democratic candidates against Donald Trump, in which the recently-announced Joe Biden topped the incumbent president by a single (well within the margin of error) point, 50-49.

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Austin-American Statesman: Presidential poll suggests 2020 Texas battleground

Democratic presidential candidates Beto O’Rourke, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are in a statistical dead heat with President Donald Trump in Texas, according to an Emerson College poll released Monday.

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2020 Texas: Biden and Beto in Dead Heat in Democratic Primary

A new Emerson Poll of Democratic Primary voters in Texas finds former Vice President Joe Biden at 23% and former Texas U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke at 22%. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was the only other candidate to clear double digits, polling third at 17%. Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 8% and Senator Elizabeth Warren at 7% are  ahead of former HUD secretary and native Texan Julian Castro, who is at 4%. The poll was conducted April 25-28, 2019, mixed mode, of Democratic primary voters with n=342, +/- 5.3%.

Spencer Kimball, Director of the Emerson Poll, explains “it seems that Beto O’Rourke does not have Texas locked up. Bernie Sanders had trouble back in 2016 in southern states, including losing Texas by 32 points (65% to 33%) to Hillary Clinton, so it will be exciting to see who can capture the Lone Star state in next March’s key Super Tuesday contest.”

Continuing the trend found in other Emerson polls this year, voters aged 18-29 continue to break more for Sanders than any other candidate, with 34% of their vote. O’Rourke leads among those age 30-49 with 31%, and Biden leads among 50-64 year olds with 29%, and among 65+ year olds with 36%.

O’Rourke does best with Hispanic voters, receiving 32% of their support. O’Rourke and Biden lead among white voters with 22% support each. Biden also leads among black voters with 40% support.

President Trump has a 46% approval/44% disapproval in Texas. However, he remains popular within his party, leading Republican opponent former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld 87% to 13%. (n=344, +/-5.3%). This is consistent with other Emerson polls conducted in different states over the past several months.


Head to Heads:

In general election matchups, Trump is in statistical dead heats with four of the top six Democratic opponents, and leads the other two. In a Donald Trump versus Joe Biden matchup, the two are almost exactly even at 50% for Biden and 49% for Trump. Beto O’Rourke versus Trump is very similar, with 50% going to Beto and 50% supporting Trump. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the other Democrats within the margin, with Trump receiving 51% to Sanders’ 49% and Trump leading Warren 53% to 47%. The rest fall outside of the margin, with Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg each receiving 46% support to Trump’s 54%.


Despite the state’s current strict marijuana policies, a plurality (38%) of Texans support full legalization, 35% support marijuana use for medical purposes only, 13% would like it decriminalized, and 14% said it should remain illegal.

Kimball notes: “It looks like Texas is headed, at the very least to medical marijuana in the near future. Among Democrats, 54% support full legalization compared to 27% who prefer medical uses only, and among Republicans, 44% opt for medical purposes only as compared to 22% who support full legalization. Independents are split on the issue with 39% supporting legalization and 35% supporting it for medical purposes only; even among Republicans only 24% said they wanted to keep it totally illegal.”

As expected, younger voters 18-29 prefer legalization 59% to 21% for medical purposes. Among older voters (those over 65), 45% agreed for medical purposes only, and 17% supported full legalization.


US Senate

In a potential 2020 U.S. Senate Race between Senator John Cornyn and former House candidate M.J. Hegar, the GOP incumbent Senator leads with 29% and Hegar is at 12%, 16% prefer someone else, and 44% are unsure of their choice. Kimball adds,  “It is clear that Hegar has some work to do to sow up party support, as Hegar gets only 25% of the Democratic voters, while 50% of the Dems are unsure.” Kimball continues, “On the other hand, Cornyn is getting 52% of Republican voters, with only 34% of GOP voters unsure.”


Caller ID

The Texas Emerson College poll was conducted April 25-28, 2019 under the Supervision of Professor Spencer Kimball. The sample consisted of registered voters, n=799, with a Credibility Interval (CI) similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 3.4 percentage points. The data was weighted based on a 2016 voter model of race, region, mode, age. It is important to remember that subsets based on gender, age, party breakdown, ethnicity and region carry with them higher margins of error, as the sample size is reduced. Data was collected using both an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines only (n=559) and an online panel provided by Amazon Turk (n=240). Visit our website at ​​.

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Transparency Intiative

CNBC: A top progressive pundit says mainstream Democrats are worried about Bernie Sanders winning the White House in 2020

The Vermont democratic socialist may have surprised the party’s establishment with his strong performance so far. He’s been polling second, behind only former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to enter the race. Sanders also took the lead in an Emerson poll released Tuesday. He raised more than $18 million in the first quarter of 2019, the most money of any Democratic contender. And his base of loyal followers, who made him a force in the 2016 primary, has not gone anywhere.

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USA Today: Bernie Sanders leads Joe Biden in Emerson national poll of 2020 contenders

Sen. Bernie Sanders finished ahead of Joe Biden in the first major national poll of the year that did not find the former vice president leading the pack of potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

When asked whom they would support from a list of 20 candidates – including “someone else” –  29% named Sanders, and 24% named Biden in an Emerson College poll released Monday. They were trailed by South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who was the pick of 9% of likely Democratic primary voters

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April National Poll: Bernie Takes Lead for Democratic Nomination, Mayor Pete On The Move

A new national Emerson poll, including 20 Democratic candidates for President, found Senator Bernie Sanders ahead of the pack with 29%, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden at 24%. They were followed by Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 9%, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Senator Kamala Harris at 8%, and Senator Elizabeth Warren at 7%. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang and former HUD secretary Julian Castro were at 3%. The poll was conducted April 11-14 of Democratic Primary voters with a subset of n=356, +/- 5.2%.

Spencer Kimball, Director of Emerson Polling, said “while still early in the nominating process, it looks like Mayor Pete is the candidate capturing voters’ imagination; the numbers had him at 0% in mid-February, 3% in March and now at 9% in April.”

Kimball also noted that “Biden has seen his support drop. In February, he led Sanders 27% to 17%, and in March the two were tied at 26%. Now, Sanders has a 5 point lead, 29% to 24%.”

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Vox: Pete Buttigieg has gone from totally unknown to polling third in Iowa and New Hampshire

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