March 13, 2023 6:00am

Triangle respondents prefer Stein in governor’s race, but most predict another split ticket

Most respondents back Josh Stein over Mark Robinson in this very, very early poll.

Photo of Leigh Tauss
Research Triangle Correspondent

It may seem early to start talking about the 2024 race to replace Gov. Roy Cooper – and for that matter the presidential race – but speculation is well underway that we are in for a face-off between Attorney General Josh Stein and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. The two couldn’t be more different candidates; Stein, the favored pick of the state’s Democratic establishment and Robinson, a controversial firebrand appealing to Donald Trump’s conservative base in the state.

Our latest poll shows strong local support for Stein. But however North Carolina swings in the Governor’s race, most respondents say the state’s history of splitting tickets and siding with different parties for the federal and state races will likely prevail.

The evidence is in their favor. To wit; there's only been one Republican governor in the last three decades, however, in that time the state has only leaned Democrat once federally – for Barack Obama in the 2008 election. But with North Carolina coming out of six years of Democratic control, a contentious presidential election could boost Republican turnout.

If Triangle Power Pollers could decide the election, Stein would win in a landslide. Sixty percent of folks that responded to this month's survey say they prefer the seasoned Democrat in the race, as opposed to the 24 percent that back Robinson. But another 12 percent say they'd rather vote for someone – anyone – else. And while a slew of other candidates will inevitably jump into the race, without a big shift or scandal, party support will likely continue to coalesce around Stein and Robinson.

The Triangle has leaned strongly blue for a while, so Stein will inevitably do well locally. Whether he can win over more urban parts of the state and snag a sizable chunk of independent voters remains to be seen.

Even if Stein will have a relatively easy time swaying local voters, our respondents don't seem confident that will translate into a Democrat in the White House. A little more than half of those surveyed said they think voters are likely to split ticket once again, and a Democratic governor could come with the state favoring a Republican president, or visa versa. Thirty percent of you think North Carolina voters will go all in on one party for the top federal and state races, while another 18 percent were unsure.

Digging deeper into North Carolina's bipolar voting habits, our members had a lot to say! Some folks blamed the growing rural-urban divide, while others blamed gerrymandering and an inherit distrust in the process. Here are some of my favorite responses:

"Several of the more recent Democratic governors have roots in Eastern North Carolina, which provides some support that might otherwise go to a Republican candidate. The 2008 Presidential race saw a heavier diverse turnout.'

'The national democratic party is unable to break free of the kind of neoliberalism that characterized the Clinton/Obama period and is therefore unable to appeal to the poor and working classes of NC. Sometimes the NC democratic party does better."

"The democratic party is failing the country at this time, whether you are Republican, independent or democratic, you can ignore inflation, crime, and the unsettling foreign-policy across the globe. Our country looks weak and we need strong leaders right now. Even down to the state level.'

"Desire to preserve our state level conservative bias while avoiding the toxic nature of the recent candidates Republicans have put forward nationally'

"We are a purple state that leans red in mid-term years when voter turnout is lower."

"Gerrymandering protects legislators from normal electoral swings. Pat McCrory's incompetence opened the door for Roy Cooper to demonstrate competence."

"The lack of qualified republican governors who can win the independent vote."

"I think voters in the middle do not vote strictly on party lines."

"I think that it is a good thing because State and Federal issues are quite different I am registered Republican voter but think that the election of Mr. Robinson as govenor would set our great State of NC back quite a few years in terms of progress in many areas.'

"I think it comes down more to the candidates themselves. Pat McCrory was a great Governor but got a bad rap because of the bathroom bill which was ridiculous. Josh Stein is likely more well known and is likely going to beat Mark Robinson as they will paint Mark as an extremist/far right candidate."

"I think most people are reasonably happy with our state government as is but I think they have different expectations for the federal government."

Despite the chicanery surrounding elections, most of you say you are still confident in the process! That's really a beautiful thing.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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