The Carolina Forward Poll: March 2023 Edition

March 13, 2023


  • Voters are already narrowly divided on the 2024 Governor’s race
  • Neither party’s leading candidates have significant name recognition
  • Republican voters are still doubtful on removing the Jim Crow literacy test from the state constitution


The 2024 general election may be more than a year and a half away, but – as usual – North Carolina’s voters are already closely divided on who their preferred candidates are. Each party’s leading candidates – Attorney General Josh Stein and Lt. Governor Mark Robinson – are in a statistical dead heat, with Robinson eking out a two-point advantage that is within the margin of error.

Robinson demonstrates a clear advantage among male and rural voters, while Stein enjoys the same with female and urban ones. The two candidates are tied among suburban voters.

In North Carolina's perennially politically inelastic environment, this kind of result - particularly before any real campaign to move voters one way or another - is a sign that the 2024 election will be extremely close. Much like the 2020 Presidential campaign, which came down to just 73,000 votes (or 1.3% of all votes cast) in North Carolina, the 2024 election will likely be decided by very small margin. This edition of the Carolina Forward Poll suggests that neither candidate begins with any real advantage.

A recent poll from High Point University also demonstrates that both Stein and Robinson will be "introducing" themselves to most voters for the first time. The March poll from HPU found that the two candidates have essentially equal levels of name recognition, with majorities of voters saying they'd never heard of either one. This may help explain Robinson's toned-down performance in his pre-recorded remarks following Governor Cooper's "State of the State" address, which represented a major departure from the Lt. Governor's preference for vocal homophobia, misogyny and anti-Semitism.

In the legislature, state lawmakers are considering a push to remove North Carolina's Jim Crow-era literacy test from the state constitution. The literacy test, which was originally inserted in 1900 explicitly to prevent Black residents from voting, has not been legally enforceable since the 1965 Voting Rights Act. But it is still in the text of the North Carolina state constitution, and lawmakers would need to put the amendment to remove the provision to a referendum in 2024.

The March Carolina Forward Poll shows wide, though not consensus, voter support for removing the literacy test provision. Support for removing the literacy test provision exceeds 50% in every measured voter segment, except for Republican voters, a third of whom actively support keeping it.

The literacy test removal bill (HB44) has strong and bipartisan support. Hopefully, this is the year when North Carolina finally removes this blight from our state constitution.

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