The Carolina Forward May Poll

May 28, 2024


  • Every statewide election in North Carolina is within the margin of error
  • Support for many Democratic candidates is rising, while Republicans have plateaued
  • There has been a large shift in voter views on marijuana policy 


The May 2024 edition of the Carolina Forward Poll is finally here. In it, we find that the 2024 Presidential election in North Carolina is tightening, and Democrats have gained a narrow, but consistent, lead in a host of statewide races. Voter opinion on marijuana policy has also meaningfully shifted since we last polled the issue in 2021. The Carolina Forward Poll was conducted by Change Research between May 13-18th, 2024, with 835 likely voters and a margin of error of 3.8%.

At the top of the ballot, Donald Trump holds a narrow 2-point margin over Joe Biden, 45% to 43%. 5% of likely voters say they’re still undecided, and another 7% say they would choose not to vote. President Biden holds a strong advantage in urban and suburban areas, while Trump is strongest in rural areas and among white men.

This result is an improvement for President Biden over the September 2023 edition of the Carolina Forward Poll, which found him 4 points behind (Trump 46/Biden 42). It's noteworthy that a full quarter of independents say that they would prefer not to vote for either man on the ballot - many more than those who say they're purely undecided.

Independent candidate Robert Kennedy Jr. has not yet officially been added to North Carolina's presidential ballot, though his campaign claims to have met the requirements. Adding RFK to the ballot seems to pull almost equally from both major party camps, giving Kennedy 11 percent of the vote:

Readers would be wise to be skeptical of polling support for third-party candidates. A significant body of political science research, in addition to real-world observations from recent election cycles, has shown that third-party candidates frequently receive more support in political polls than they do on Election Day. It is likely that many voters who are reporting support for Kennedy will wind up voting for either Biden or Trump on November 5th - though we shall wait and see.

Turning to North Carolina's governor race, Attorney General Josh Stein squeaks out a 1-point lead over Lt. Governor Mark Robinson. This is the first time Stein has led Robinson in the Carolina Forward Poll:

Support for Stein has steadily risen. Compared to September 2023, Stein's support has improved by 6 points (38% up to 44%), and compared to the February edition of the poll, he has improved by 2 points (42% to 44%). Robinson, by contrast, has not budged since February, and has improved by only 1 point since September 2023 (42% to 43%). Robinson is also running 2 points behind Trump - a small, but critical, sliver of the electorate. This fits into a long-observed pattern in North Carolina elections, in which a small number of voters have gone Republican in federal or Presidential elections, but Democratic on the state level. Both Governor Cooper and Attorney General Stein won back-to-back statewide elections in 2016 and 2020 with exactly this phenomenon.

One possibility for Robinson's lagging support could also be that, like Trump, he is encountering the "MAGA wall" phenomenon. This is the theory that the now MAGA-fied Republican brand of politics has a generally limited appeal. Much as Robinson's fellow "ultra-MAGA" style candidates like Kari Lake and Doug Mastriano discovered, the extremist politics that can be effective in winning a Republican primary can prove a severe liability in a general election.

North Carolina's Attorney General race has been fairly quiet so far, overshadowed by both Presidential and Governor races. Yet both campaigns have been active. Our May poll finds that Congressman Jeff Jackson has opened up a 3-point lead over Congressman Dan Bishop:

This again represents a notable improvement for Jackson, who trailed Bishop by 2 points in our February poll, (39% to 41%). It's also an ominous result for Bishop, who has aggressively styled himself as an "ultra-MAGA" candidate, to be running 5 points behind Trump.

The race for North Carolina's open state Supreme Court seat has been a very low-key affair so far as well. Yet we find that Justice Allison Riggs holds a slim lead over Judge Jefferson Griffin, with a significant number of voters undecided:

Normally, the race for State Superintendent of Schools is equally obscure to many voters. Yet this year, the race for Superintendent has gained national attention due to the spectacle of MAGA activist Michele Morrow, who defeated sitting Superintendent Catherine Truitt in her primary. Our May poll finds her Democratic opponent, Mo Green, with a 3-point lead:

Finally, on the state legislative generic ballot, Democrats have once again regained a 2-point lead:

This is a reversal from our February poll, which found Republicans with a 2-point generic ballot lead, and the September poll, which found them with a 4-point lead.

Turning to policy issues, marijuana policy is once again being debated in North Carolina's state legislature. Since we last polled NC voter opinion on marijuana legalization in August of 2021, there has been a sizable shift. Fully 95% of NC likely voters now support some form of legalization, with 63% preferring legalizing marijuana for both medical and recreational use:

This is a remarkable result, and represents a 20-point shift in voter attitudes towards marijuana legalization since 2021. Interestingly, nearly all of the shift is toward preferring full legalization. Marijuana legalization has become a consensus issue in North Carolina politics, though far-right Republican pressure in the state legislature continues to successfully block it.

The clearest takeaway from this edition of the Carolina Forward Poll is that North Carolina once again faces a drum-tight election, at every level of the ballot. There is good evidence that Democrats are out-running President Biden lower on the ballot, though every race tested is within the margin of error. Will Trump and Robinson manage to break through the MAGA wall? Will Biden be able to close the gap with North Carolina's downballot Democrats? We'll have to wait for the next edition of the poll to find out.

See full topline results and crosstabs.

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