News: Quick Takes

Trump leads latest Meredith Poll with voters wanting other options

Donald Trump pays tribute to several Congressional Medal of Honor recipients November 2016 in Selma.
Donald Trump pays tribute to several Congressional Medal of Honor recipients November 2016 in Selma.

A new poll from Meredith College shows 40% of North Carolinians would rather vote for someone who’s randomly selected from a phone book than for President Trump. Democratic candidates fare little better. 

The Meredith Poll sampled 998 registered North Carolina voters from Sept. 29 to Oct. 7 using a mix of landlines and online surveys to reach respondents. The margin of error is plus or minus 3%. 

The Meredith Poll was taken before Trump announced the U.S. was pulling troops out of northern Syria, paving the way for a Turkish military operation in the area. Trump’s decision prompted bipartisan rebuke, as critics said the president was abandoning key allies and risking the reemergence of ISIS. 

The poll was also taken before news broke that federal investigators are looking into Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and his dealings with Ukraine. 

Trump’s approval ratings continue to decline, nonetheless. The fall 2018 poll and the spring 2019 poll have the president’s approval rating at 44%. In the latest poll, support has dropped to 40%.

David McLennan, professor of political science at the college and director of the Meredith Poll, said in a news release that a loss of Republican support is largely responsible for the decline in Trump’s approval rating.

“Up until the most recent Meredith Poll, Trump’s support among Republicans was in the mid-to-upper 80s,” McLennan said. “The turmoil surrounding the Ukrainian call and move by Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi to start an impeachment inquiry has eroded his support among Republicans.”

Nearly 75% of Republican respondents approve of Trump’s job performance, while 19.5% disapprove. In the Spring 2019 poll, around 86% of Republicans approved of the president’s job performance. 

But low approval ratings may not signal an easy win for the 2020 presidential Democratic candidate. 

Trump comes out on top in every matchup with the top five Democratic candidates. But at least one in five respondents in each matchup wanted someone other than Trump or the listed Democratic candidate. 

Trump just barely beats a randomly selected person from the phone book in a hypothetical matchup. Just above 42% picked the president; 40% said they would vote for the random person. 

“President Trump’s potential support in the 2020 election essentially mirrors his approval rating in the state,” McLennan said. “The problem for Democrats in the state is that voters are not excited about their potential nominees, and no one runs particularly well against the president at over a year before the election.”

A slight plurality of respondents — 48.2% — say Trump’s actions justify an impeachment inquiry, compared to 41% who say his actions don’t warrant it. 

“The division in North Carolina, based on party affiliation, reflects the national mood about impeachment,” McLennan said. “Most Democrats are urging the House to move forward, while Republicans see the inquiry as more partisan.”

Incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis is in a dead heat with his two most prominent Democratic challengers. In a matchup with Cal Cunningham, Tillis earned 33.3% of the vote, compared to 32.6% for Cunningham. Sen. Erica Smith, D-Northampton, garnered 33.5% of the vote, with Tillis at 33.1%. 

In both cases, the remaining responses divided almost evenly among “someone else” and “don’t know.”

Tillis faces Raleigh business owner Garland Tucker in the GOP primary. Tucker wasn’t included in the poll.