Trump leads Biden by 5 points in WRAL poll

Published March 14, 2024

By Capitol Broadcasting Company

Likely Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump leads Democratic President Joe Biden in a North Carolina race marked by a large portion of voters who are underwhelmed with their choices, according to an exclusive WRAL News poll released Monday.

Trump has a five-point lead, 50% to 45%, among likely voters in this key swing state, the poll shows. And with 5% of voters undecided, the race could come down to how well Biden and fellow Democrats do at convincing people to vote at all this year.

Trump led by 10 points among people who said they’re certain to vote in November, but Biden had an even larger 12-point lead among people who said they’d probably vote but weren’t completely certain.

Notably, a majority of likely voters aren’t happy with the prospect of a rematch of the 2020 election at all, with 55% saying they wish they had different options in the presidential race.

And looking more deeply into those numbers, Meredith College political scientist David McLennan said, signs of serious trouble emerge for Biden. Sixty percent of Republicans said they were fine with a Trump-Biden rematch, but 67% of Democrats — and 71% of independents — said they wished for different candidates.

“That’s really problematic in terms of trying to get your voters to come out this fall,” he said of Biden’s reelection bid. “... When you talk about a third of your own party’s voters are glad to have you, and two-thirds are not? I can’t remember a presidential candidate being in that situation in recent history.”

The poll, conducted in partnership with SurveyUSA between March 3 and March 9, has a credibility interval of 4.9 percentage points. A credibility interval is similar to margin of error but takes into account more factors and is considered by some pollsters to be a more accurate measurement of statistical certainty.

SurveyUSA President Ken Alper said it’s still early in the race — most of the polling was done before Biden’s State of the Union speech Thursday night — and that he’d expect Trump’s five-point lead to shrink as the Biden campaign ramps up its efforts in swing states, including North Carolina. He noted that while Biden has mostly taken a break from the campaign trail for the last several years as he has served as president, Trump has continued campaigning almost non-stop.

North Carolina has been among the most closely contested presidential battleground states in the country since 2008, and the new poll shows 2024 will likely be no different. Trump’s narrow lead in the poll fits with how he’s performed in North Carolina in the past. He won the state in both 2016 and 2020, each time with just under 50% of the vote.

The poll also highlights problems Biden faces with younger voters, long thought to be a key Democratic constituency: Trump, who is 77 years old, and Biden, 81, were tied among likely voters age 50 and up, but Trump had a substantial 54%-to-42% lead among those under 50 — and even won 52% of the youngest voters, those ages 18-34.

“The gender gap is pretty significant; Biden has a big lead” among women, McLennan said. “Among middle-age voters, Biden is doing pretty well. But Trump is doing well among young voters, which is really kind of cutting against years of what we’ve thought.”

Could Stein help Biden?

Biden and Trump each won handily in the state’s primary elections last week. But that came as nearly three in every four voters chose not to participate at all, with a turnout rate of just 28%.

The general sense of unhappiness over a Trump-Biden rematch could put more attention on other races on the ballot in November, Alper said. While the poll shows Trump leading Biden among unaffiliated voters, 49% to 41%, the opposite is true in the race for governor: Unaffiliated voters prefer Democratic nominee Josh Stein, who is the state’s attorney general, over the Republican nominee, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, by a margin of 50% to 34%.

Part of that is due to the fact that among self-described moderates, 38% say they support Trump but only 25% say they support Robinson.

“If Mark Robinson makes independent voters angry enough, there's the possibility Stein might have some reverse coattails and give Biden some real help as well, pulling everyone else up,” said Alper.

Robinson has taken various controversial stances — on issues such as LGBTQ people, Jews and women — that have caused some in his own party to question his ability to win a general election.

But while politically independent voters might still be winnable, people who belong to a political party appear highly unlikely to go against their party’s nominee this year. Only 1% of registered Democrats said they’ll vote for Trump, and only 3% of registered Republicans said they’ll vote for Biden, in the poll of likely voters.

Alper said one thing the poll didn’t ask voters about was how the presence of any third-party candidates might affect the race. North Carolina is likely to have a Libertarian presidential candidate on the ballot — and could have other candidates, too, possibly from No Labels, the Green Party or other niche political groups.

“About 1.5 to 4.5 points over the past few major statewide races [for president] have gone to those third party candidates,” Alper said. “And they tend to draw more from Republicans than Democrats.”