Following the nationwide controversy over Indiana’s passage of its Religious Freedom Restoration Act, North Carolinians are erring on the side of gay rights over religious freedom, according to an Elon University Poll released Tuesday. A hypothetical 2016 presidential matchup provided a closer outcome, with Sen. Hillary Clinton carrying a 3-percentage point advantage over former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush among registered voters in North Carolina.

Nearly two-thirds of all respondents said a business shouldn’t be allowed to refuse service to people who are gay — regardless of religious belief — but 51 percent of Republicans said business owners should have that right.

In the upcoming election, Clinton’s political status may make her an early target for criticism, said Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon University Poll and assistant professor of political science, in a statement.

When respondents were asked about favorability among potential candidates from both parties — some announced, some not — Clinton came in fourth behind Scott Walker, Marco Rubio and Elizabeth Warren. But no clear favorite has yet emerged in the traditional battleground state.

“However, Clinton’s lower scores are partly a reflection of how well-known she is, whereas large chunks of the population seem to have difficulty rating most other candidates,” Fernandez said in a statement.

Within the state, the race for governor of North Carolina is even closer, with incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory-Rep. leading Attorney General Roy Cooper-Dem. by a slim 45-43 margin.

“Though early results show Roy Cooper polling well against Pat McCrory in 2016, three things are important to remember,” said Jason Husser, assistant director of the Elon University Poll and assistant professor of political science, in a statement. “November 2016 is a long time from now. Preliminary results may simply reflect quick reactions to party labels.  And McCrory retains strength in his base: less than one-sixth of those voters who approve of McCrory said they would vote for Cooper.?”


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