NC - 2024 Governor's Race

In polling released Thursday, May 25, 2023, the North Carolina governor's race in 2024 is led by Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, left. Democrat Josh Stein and Republicans Mark Walker and Dale Folwell, from left to right, are trailing.

(The Center Square) – Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is polling ahead of Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein in the 2024 governor's race, though many voters remain undecided in a new poll released Thursday.

The Civitas Poll of 610 likely general election voters conducted Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday found 41.5% would vote for Robinson “if the 2024 general election for North Carolina’s Governor was held today,” compared to 40.8% who would back Stein. Nearly 18% of those polled were undecided.

Stein is the only Democrat to declare candidacy. Republicans already have Robinson, former Congressman Mark Walker and state Treasurer Dale Folwell slated for next March's primary.

In other hypothetical matchups, Stein led Folwell and Walker. A plurality of voters supported Stein with a 5.7% lead over Folwell, and 2.6% lead over Walker, who officially joined the race last weekend. Nearly 27% of those polled were undecided on the Folwell-Stein matchup, while 23.8% were unsure about Stein-Walker.

The Civitas poll has a margin of error of 3.96%. Civitas is a "broadly supported conservative policy organization."

“The race for the governor’s seat is a tight one so far,” said Donald Bryson, president of the right-leaning John Locke Foundation. “But with so many undecided voters, there is definitely room for candidates to gain ground by making a compelling case to the people of North Carolina. The calculus could also change if another Democrat throws their hat in the ring.”

Republican candidates for governor face an uphill battle to replace Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who is term limited. Since Daniel Lindsay Russell held office from 1897-1901, North Carolinians – who couldn't reelect governors at all until 1977's constitutional amendment – have elected 23 Democrats. GOP Govs. James Holshouser (1973-77), Jim Martin (1985-93), and Pat McCrory (2013-17) are the only exceptions to the trend.

Thursday’s poll results confirm unanimous agreement among veteran observers of Old North State politics speaking with The Center Square on Monday. They said Robinson remains the favorite in the Republican primary, despite Walker’s recent entry into the race.

The results also confirm suggestions Walker could be a strong candidate if he can sway a large number of undecided voters.

“I think former Congressman Walker's prospects revolve around whether he can effectively indict Mark Robinson as some kind of moral hypocrite, as not the authentic ‘everyman’ that he portrays himself to be,” Mac McCorkle, professor at the Stanford School of Public Policy, wrote in an email to The Center Square. “Walker has certainly been sending signals that he has the ammunition and is ready to do that. Such an effort could turn the Republican primary into a rough and wild affair and shake things up considerably.”

Other poll results showed North Carolina voters do not share Cooper’s disdain for school choice and the expansion of the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, which the governor has attacked in the media in recent days. Nearly 52% of those polled support the vouchers parents can use for alternatives to the public education system, while 22% opposed and 15% neither supported nor opposed.

On faith in elections, 50.7% believe elections will be free and fair, though 62.7% believe implementing North Carolina’s voter photo identification law, recently reinstated by the state Supreme Court, would increase their confidence in election outcomes.

“The conversation about voter ID has always been about preventing voter fraud, but we should not discount the importance of voters believing in the legitimacy of the electoral process,” Bryson said. “The results are clear, if North Carolina requires photo identification when voting, voter confidence surges.”