Former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter scored a decisive victory over Alabama Gov. George Wallace in the North Carolina Democratic presidential primary on March 23, 1976, with approximately 53 percent of the vote to Wallace's 35 percent. Sen. Scoop Jackson trailed far behind, with approximately 4 percent. The North Carolina primary was the first in which Carter won an absolute majority and helped seal his ultimate nomination. Wallace, who had won the North Carolina primary in 1972, was all but eliminated from the race by his defeat.
Former California Gov. Ronald Reagan defeated incumbent President Ford in the North Carolina Republican presidential primary on March 23, 1976, with approximately 52 percent of the vote. It was Reagan's first primary victory of 1976, and came about with key support from North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms. Reagan's win prolonged the contest for the Republican nomination and paved the way for him to be elected president in 1980. Reagan would go on to narrowly win the state in 1980.