U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and former N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory lead the pack in the latest Civitas Institute poll focusing on the Republican primary.

Interestingly, McCrory has yet to file for the governor’s seat, though he hasn’t ruled out running.

Harper Polling, on behalf of the conservative Civitas Institute, surveyed 500 likely Republican primary voters from Dec. 2-4. Respondents were reached via phone. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.38%. 

Tillis is miles ahead of his primary challenger, Sandy Smith. Eleven percent of respondents said they would vote for Smith if the Republican primary election for the U.S. Senate were held today. An overwhelming 63% of respondents said they would vote for Tillis. A quarter of respondents — 25% — are undecided.

Tillis was set to face Garland Tucker III in what was reported to be a contentious showdown, but the Raleigh businessman dropped out of the race. Tucker announced Dec. 2 he would no longer pursue the Senate seat. In a letter to supporters, Tucker cited low campaign funds and the ongoing impeachment proceedings as reasons for his departure. 

Smith lives in Winterville and runs a family business. 

Republican primary voters are concerned mostly about jobs and the economy, with 30% saying it’s important to their vote in 2020 on the national level. Immigration and the presidency were close behind, with 19% and 17% of respondents, respectively, saying the issues are important as it relates to their votes. 

“It would be wise for both parties to pay attention to the most important issue questions in this poll,” Donald Bryson, president of Civitas Institute, said in a news release. “Republicans need to stake out a jobs-focused platform to run a competitive primary race.” 

A whopping 91% of respondents said the national economy has improved over the past three years; just 3% said it has gotten worse. Similarly, an overwhelming 81% favored the tax reform bill President Trump signed into law in December 2017. Just 7% disapproved of the law. 

On the state level, jobs and the economy also topped the priority list, with 30% saying the issue was most important in determining their vote. The governorship was second with 22%, followed by health care at 17%, education at 11%, and gun policies at 10%. 

When considering North Carolina’s economy, 60% of respondents said across-the-board tax cuts for all businesses should be used to improve the state’s economy. Fifteen percent favored targeted incentives and tax breaks for certain businesses. 

If the Republican primary election for governor were held today, none of the current announced candidates would win. Instead, McCrory, who isn’t an official candidate, tops the list. Forty-two percent of respondents said they would pick the former Republican governor, should he run. In second, 31% of respondents would pick Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. Only 3% would vote for Rep. Holly Grange, R-New Hanover. Twenty-five percent are undecided. 

“It is difficult to compete with the recognition that comes with being chief executive of the state, and this poll bears that out,” Bryson said. “In this poll, former Governor McCrory maintains a lead across most key demographics, including women, seniors, and high propensity voters.”

A vast majority of likely Republican primary voters are undecided about lieutenant governor. An overwhelming 67% aren’t sure who they would vote for if the election were held today. Former Mt. Airy Mayor Deborah Cochran has the highest poll numbers of the other candidates, with 8% saying they would vote for her. Not far behind is former U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, with 7% of respondents saying they would choose her. 

Some 71% of respondents are undecided about the Republican primary election for secretary of state. Twenty percent said they would vote for Chad Brown, but only 4% and 5% would vote for Michael LaPaglia and E.C. Sykes, respectively. 

The poll asked about a few amendments to the state constitution, which respondents generally approved. 

A little more than 60% of voters would favor a constitutional amendment to limit the annual growth of the state budget to a percentage equal to the sum of annual inflation and the state’s annual population growth rate. Only 13% opposed the idea; 26% were unsure.

Respondents also favored a constitutional amendment related to property rights. The proposed state constitutional amendment would prohibit condemnation of private property except for a public use, as well as require payment of just compensation with right of trial by jury in all condemnation cases. Fifty-seven percent of respondents favored the amendment; 15% opposed it and 28% were unsure. 

A state constitutional amendment to require the nonpartisan staff at the General Assembly to create legislative and congressional district — with final approval from state legislators — gained respondents’ approval. Fifty-eight percent approved of the proposed amendment; 17% disapproved and 25% were unsure.