RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — While Donald Trump has already declared his candidacy to run for president a third time, Florida governor Ron DeSantis has not. But speculation that DeSantis will run is enough for pollsters to put him in the mix.
In a new Civitas poll, 43.6% of North Carolina voters said they would vote for DeSantis if the election were held today, compared to 41% for Joe Biden.
Donald Trump won North Carolina in both presidential races, but the same voters have him losing to Joe Biden in 2024, with Biden coming in at 45.4% and Trump at 43.4%.
Former vice president Mike Pence also falls behind Biden, at 41.4% compared to 39.4%.
Civitas conducted the poll in partnership with the conservative and Raleigh-based John Locke Foundation.
“All of these results are within the margin of error which tells me two things. One, Ron DeSantis does really well among unaffiliated voters and that’s what pulled him ahead, but other than that North Carolina is going to be another barn burner,” said John Locke Foundation president Donald Bryson.
People registered as unaffiliated continue to be the largest and fastest growing voting block in the state.
“Republicans and Democrats continue to lose market share in terms of voter registration and so people are going to have to figure out way to appeal outside of their political tribe. It’s not about R and D anymore, which makes us even more purple,” said Bryson.
A key take-away in this particular poll is that DeSantis ended up 9% ahead of Biden among unaffiliated voters while Trump is in the negative.
The poll was conducted before the news broke that Trump is being indicted by a New York grand jury. This latest development is something that could help DeSantis become an even stronger candidate.
“I think Ron DeSantis has a lot of policy wins as a governor and he has experience in congress. This is not an endorsement of Ron DeSantis, but I think that people get a lot of the same policies that they would expect out of Donald Trump without all of the personal baggage that comes with being Donald Trump,” Bryson said.
Bryson said this sort of voter fatigue has happened with candidates in both parties.
“I think we’ve seen this in another way,” he explained. “We saw this with the Clintons with scandal after scandal after scandal and it just wore down on people to where they just didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton anymore, they voted for Donald Trump. And so I think those things are starting to pile up for Donald Trump as well.”
According to the same poll, confidence in North Carolina’s elections is up.
Nearly 60% of respondents said they believe North Carolina’s next election will be “free and fair,” compared to 49% in March 2021.
“What concerns me is that a quarter of people, just over 25 percent of voters, aren’t sure that that’s the case,” Bryson said. “If that’s a head-to-head election poll and somebody’s winning 57-25 that sounds great. But when you have a quarter of the electorate who have concerns about the elections being free and fair, there’s a larger cultural issue — because people don’t trust the democratic process at that point.”
“I will say there is a correlation between people who support Donald Trump later on in the poll and who don’t believe the election will be free and fair, there’s a clear correlation there,” je added. “But, that being said, it seems that Voter ID is overall very popular and that would sooth a lot of people’s nerves if we had a Voter ID law here in North Carolina.”
A majority, 70.8%, said they would like to see North Carolina add a citizens-only voting amendment to the state constitution. That support includes a majority of each voting block — 90% of Republicans, 71% of Unaffiliated and 56% of Democrats.
With the topic back in the hands of the North Carolina Supreme Court, voter I.D. polled with nearly seven out of 10 voters in favor.