General Assembly Approval Doesn’t Matter

by | Feb 13, 2013 | Carolina Strategic Analysis, Features


PPP released more of their poll from yesterday, and while there were some interesting tidbits in it, I want to cover the approval/disapproval numbers for the General Assembly. Here they are:

Q5 Do you approve or disapprove of the job the General Assembly is doing? Approve 22%, Disapprove 51% (-29)

Q11 Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the Democrats in the state legislature? 36% Favorable, 45% Unfavorable (-9)

Q12 Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the Republicans in the state legislature? 33% Favorable, 49% Unfavorable (-16)

These numbers have roughly remained the same for about two years. The General Assembly is unpopular, Democrats are unpopular, Republicans are even more unpopular than the Democrats. A lot of liberals were saying two years ago that the unpopularity of the Republican legislature would give Perdue ammunition for a second term. Didn’t turn out that way. And now these same liberals are saying that in 2014 NC will have buyer’s remorse and Democrats will make huge gains in the legislature, and this unpopularity of statewide Republicans will even help Kay Hagan.

I disagree. For one thing, I don’t think voters really know much about what goes on at the General Assembly, even though state politics is much more relevant to their lives than what goes on at the national level. Shocking though it may be to political junkies, I bet many people can’t name one think that the legislature has done. They might mutter something about “sea level rise” or “gay marriage” but this is really, really vague stuff and they’re mostly the concerns of liberals anyway.

What matters is the national environment. State Democrats had a reputation for corruption and complacency, but North Carolinians didn’t vote them out until the Republican wave election of 2010. With the districts so stacked in their favor, Democrats would be hard pressed to carry either house of the legislature in even a 2006/2008 style environment. This next election is a midterm with a Democratic president in office, the chances of a Democratic tidal wave happening are miniscule.

Besides favorable districts, there’s also the whole “I hate Congress, love my Congressman” effect, which also applies to the legislature … voters are always down on legislatures; they’re a bunch of men who are out-of-touch and are constantly screwing things up. Voters have a predisposition for despising legislatures. And yet, they love their individual legislators. So, the General Assembly numbers are meaningless, just like the approval numbers for Congress are always meaningless. They may point to extreme cynicism about the political process, but electorally it means nothing.

The only number that stands out, for me, is the 49% unfavorable rating for Republicans in the legislature. When almost a majority of the state doesn’t like you, that’s not good. But then again, to some extent redistricting has given them an insurance policy against unpopularity. Still, they should try to bring these numbers up. Maybe adopt a resolution honoring puppies or something.

The point of this post isn’t to say that Democrats are doomed and should just not even bother, just that they have a long road ahead if they want to take back either house of the General Assembly. They need an unpopular legislature, money, a wave year, and a little bit of luck. Without all these ingredients, they’re going to stay in the minority – regardless of how much survey respondents say they dislike the legislature.


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