ECU poll shows clear party preferences in gubernatorial primary with general election a tie

Published February 22, 2024

By East Carolina University Poll

A poll from East Carolina University’s Center for Survey Research shows Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson with a large lead in the North Carolina Republican primary election for Governor. According to the results of the ECU Poll, conducted February 9-12, Robinson has the support of 53% of likely Republican primary voters, followed by former prosecutor Bill Graham (13%), and State Treasurer Dale Folwell (7%), with 27% undecided. Robinson’s lead has increased significantly from our poll conducted in late November/early December 2023, where he had the support of 34% of registered Republicans, followed by Graham (8%) and Folwell (7%), and nearly half (49%) were undecided.


Among the 27% of undecided likely Republican primary voters, a clear majority (61%) are leaning toward voting for Robinson in March, while 25% lean Graham, and 14% lean Folwell. When these undecided leaners are included in the overall totals, Robinson leads with 69%, followed by Graham at 20% and Folwell at 11%.

In the Democratic primary race for governor, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein has a commanding 50-point lead over his closest competitor. Stein has the support of 57% of likely Democratic primary voters, followed by North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan (7%), attorney Marcus Williams (3%), Tryon Mayor Pro Tempore Chrelle Booker (2%), and former police chief and school resource officer Gary Foxx (2%), with 29% still undecided.


In the North Carolina Republican presidential primary, former president Donald Trump continues to widen his lead over former South Carolina Governor and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley. More than three-out-of-four (76%) likely Republican primary voters intend to vote for Trump, while 19% intend to vote for Haley, with only 5% undecided. Trump’s supporters are most likely to back Mark Robinson, favoring him over Bill Graham 62% to 12% (with 4% for Dale Folwell and 22% undecided). Among Nikki Haley supporters, Robinson also leads but by a much slimmer margin, with 23% compared to Graham at 20% and Folwell at 18% (40% undecided).

Turning to a hypothetical general election matchup between Robinson and Stein, the race is tied with 41% supporting Robinson and 41% supporting Stein. However, when matched against other Republicans, Stein has a lead over Bill Graham, 40% to 35%, as well as Dale Folwell, 42% to 31%.


In a hypothetical general election for president, Donald Trump leads Joe Biden 47% to 44%, followed by Robert Kennedy Jr. with 2% and Cornel West with 1%, and “some other independent, minor-party, or write-in candidate” with 1% (6% undecided).


When asked to identify the most important issue facing people in North Carolina today, 35% answered inflation and/or the overall cost of living, which is a slight decrease from our previous poll where 42% answered inflation and/or the overall cost of living. Other issues included the economy in general (19%), new state laws on abortion (13%), border security (12%, up from 6% in our previous poll), violent crime and/or public safety (7%), affordability of health care (6%), and climate change and/or the environment (3%).

The top issues of concern, however, differed among Biden and Trump supporters. Border security, for example, was cited as the top issue of concern for 24% of Trump supporters compared to just 1.5% of Biden supporters. Likewise, there were sharp differences on abortion, with 28% of Biden supporters indicating it was their top issue of concern compared to only 2% of Trump supporters.

Statewide, 41% approve of President Joe Biden’s overall job performance (up slightly from our previous poll which had Biden at 37% approval), while 52% disapprove. Governor Roy Cooper does better with 50% approval (up from 46%) and 38% disapproval.

In assessing the primary election results of the poll, Dr. Peter Francia, Director of the ECU Center for Survey Research, remarked, “The results of our poll make clear that Donald Trump is the dominant force in the Republican Party. He is not only well ahead of Nikki Haley, but Trump Republican voters are providing Mark Robinson with a decisive advantage in the primary election for governor. Unless there is an extraordinary shift in issues or events, Mark Robinson is very likely to be the Republican Party’s nominee for governor. It is also just as apparent that Josh Stein is all but certain to be the Democrats’ choice for governor.” 

Turning to the general election, Francia added, “North Carolina remains a purple state. A general election matchup between Robinson and Stein is going to be an extremely close and competitive contest. On the presidential side, Donald Trump appears to have a slight edge on Joe Biden in North Carolina, but the race for the state’s 16 electoral votes is far from settled.”


This poll was conducted February 9-12, 2024. The sample consisted of completed responses from 1,207 registered voters in North Carolina, with a Credibility Interval (CI) similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 3.3 percentage points. The data were weighted by age, education, race, gender, region, mode, and 2024 election modeling. The data for the poll were drawn from an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines only (n=362), from a cellphone sample of SMS-to-web (N=350) provided by Promark Research, and an online panel provided by Cint and Bovitz (N=495).