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Gov. Cooper leads Lt. Gov. Dan Forest in 2020 matchup

Biden, Warren, and Tillis favorability a mixed bag
June 19, 2019


RALEIGH, N.C. – The latest Civitas Poll has found that in a 2020 matchup for the governor’s race, Gov. Roy Cooper is leading Republican candidate for governor, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest by 10 points (37 to 47) with 16 percent of respondents saying they’re undecided.

In a survey of 500 likely voters from across the state, respondents were asked, “If the 2020 election for Governor of North Carolina were held today, which of the following candidates would you vote for: Republican Dan Forest, OR Democrat Roy Cooper?”

Forest          37%

Cooper        47%

Undecided 16%

With a little less than 18 months until the next election, this snapshot of current voter sentiment will likely fluctuate as each campaign crystalizes its agenda items and mobilizes its grassroots teams. Interestingly, a look at the votes cast for lieutenant governor in 2016 reveal that Forest received over 84,000 more votes than Cooper and over 30,000 more than President Donald Trump.  Nonetheless, the governor has had several instances in which his name recognition has grown, coordinating particularly with the onset of and recovery from Hurricanes Florence and Michael.

“Given Gov. Cooper’s greater relative visibility and above water approval ratings, this result is not a great surprise this early in the election cycle,” said Civitas Institute President Donald Bryson. “However, both campaigns should be wary of what the crosstab tea leaves show. This race could be very close, and both candidates could easily take crossover votes from the other’s party.”

Likely voters were also asked about whether they approve or disapprove of the job Cooper is doing as governor. Fifty-three percent said they approved, while 34 percent disapproved. This result is a slight decline in approval from May (56 percent) and March (58 percent). There was also a 5 percent increase in disapproval. In both the May and March polls, 29 percent of likely voters disapproved of the governor’s job performance.

Gov. Cooper receives the highest approval ratings from baby boomers (65 percent) and the lowest from Gen Z and younger millennials (45 percent). Another interesting finding in this particular poll question was what unaffiliated voters, our state’s fastest-growing bloc thought of the governor’s job performance. Fifty-one percent voiced their approval, while 35 percent disapproved, and 13 percent were unsure or refused.

Voters were also asked about their thoughts on tariffs. Approval and disapproval of President Trump’s 25 percent tariffs on certain Chinese products were close, with 44 percent stating their approval and 42 percent their disapproval. However, when asked about whether these same tariffs would help or hurt North Carolina’s economy, only 24 percent said it would help, while 49 percent stated it would hurt, and 28 percent were unsure or refused to answer.

Bryson continued, “North Carolina voters are displaying interesting, and perhaps illogical, opinions around trade.  There is a sharp divide regarding the approval of tariffs on Chinese goods; however, voters believe that American customers pay the cost of tariffs and a near majority think tariffs will hurt the state economy.”

This poll also touched on a number of other topics, such as Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Sen. Thom Tillis’ favorability, as well as public opinion on the cause of the student loan quagmire.

The sample size for the survey is 500 likely voters in North Carolina and the margin of errors +/-4.38. Responses were gathered via landline and mobile telephone interviews conducted by live callers at a professional call center. The survey was conducted June 8 –10, 2019 by Harper Polling. The total percentages of responses may not equal 100% due to rounding.

Poll Highlights

For questions, or to arrange an interview, please contact Brooke Medina, communications director, at

Civitas has conducted live-caller voting in North Carolina since May 2005, and we are the only public policy organization offering statewide independent, nonpartisan data on a regular basis. Our polls have provided vital insights on what North Carolina voters think of the leaders and issues facing the state and nation.

Founded in 2005, the Civitas Institute is a Raleigh, NC-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit policy organization committed to advancing conservative ideas and shrinking the size of government. Civitas fights to eliminate government barriers to freedom so that North Carolinians can live a better life.

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