Former N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory is the preferred choice for the state’s U.S. Senate seat in 2022, according to a Civitas Poll of likely GOP primary voters released Thursday, Jan. 13.
McCrory, a Republican, leads the primary field with 24% of the vote, compared to 19% for 13th congressional district Rep. Ted Budd and 7% for former 6th congressional district Rep. Mark Walker. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed were undecided.
The general election for the Tar Heel State’s Senate seat is expected to be one of the most competitive of 2022 and could decide the balance of power in that chamber. The seat is open due to the retirement of incumbent U.S. Sen Richard Burr.
In the poll, McCrory makes a strong showing in three of four major regions across the state, with 24% support in the Triangle, 27% on the coast, and 27% in Charlotte. The only area in which Budd comes out on top is central North Carolina, with 28% support. All four regions have a high undecided rate, ranging from 35% in the central portion of the state to 57% in the Triangle.
“This poll shows that there are two very different paths to victory for the McCrory and Budd campaigns,” said Donald Bryson, president of the John Locke Foundation. “Budd’s path is more straightforward: He needs the field to narrow. McCrory, on the other hand, with better name recognition, needs his campaign to begin putting lead on target, specifically Ted Budd himself and core conservative issues like border security and election security.”
The results of the new survey show that former President Trump’s influence in the race is strong but not overwhelming. Even with Trump’s endorsement landing in June, Budd has been unable to overtake McCrory in the polls. Asked how Trump’s endorsement of a U.S. Senate candidate would impact their vote, 50% of GOP primary voters said they would definitely or probably vote for Trump’s pick, while 37% said they would keep an open mind.
Dr. Michael Bitzer, professor of politics and history at Catawba College in Salisbury, predicted that Trump’s influence will be a significant factor as the race heads into the home stretch.
“I’d expect to see Budd publicize Trump’s endorsement to the hilt —t hat’s likely the type of GOP primary voter that will be out there,” Bitzer told Carolina Journal. “McCrory’s name recognition and previous runs certainly are a fundamental advantage to him, but my question continues to be how loyal will this GOP primary electorate be towards Trump?”
Dr. Andy Taylor, a political science professor at N.C. State University in Raleigh, noted that half the Republican electorate is still undecided in the race. “There is plenty of room for things to change, clearly,” he said.
When it comes to a possible presidential primary in 2024, Trump remains the runaway favorite among Republican voters. Forty-seven percent said they would vote for the former president over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (19%), former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (8%), or former Vice President Mike Pence (5%).
The Civitas poll unearthed several other key data points. Asked whether the U.S. is headed in the right or wrong direction, nine out of 10 GOP primary voters checked “wrong direction.” Eighty-one percent disapprove of the job that the U.S. Congress is doing.
GOP primary voters also expressed concerns over election integrity. Asked, “Do you believe the November 2022 general elections will be free and fair?” 49% said “no,” 21% “yes,” and 31% were unsure.
The poll was conducted by Cygnal and queried 600 likely voters Jan. 7-9.