One of the great mysteries of American politics concerns the asymmetry between voter views and voting outcomes. For years, public-opinion surveys have revealed a country that leans toward Democrats on the issues; regardless of this sympathy, the Republican Party remains stubbornly viable in a nation that has shifted from center-right to center-left. This puzzling conundrum is on full display in a new Meredith College poll of North Carolina voters. But given the dismal atmosphere in which Democrats are struggling to stay intact, North Carolina Democrats should take the poll as a glimmer of good news in the middle of this forbidding political winter.

The most salient issue in political discourse today is abortion. On it, North Carolinians tend to stand with the Democratic Party and the pro-choice movement. The split between pro-choicers and the anti-choice barbarians is closer in the state than it is in the country as a whole, reflecting North Carolina’s slight Republican lean relative to a country that if anything tilts Democratic. But in contrast to most “red” states, North Carolinians are strikingly pro-choice. According to Meredith, 52.6% of Tar Heel voters “want North Carolina to pass a law keeping the provisions of Roe or expanding abortion access further.” That’s a solid majority for Choice, and we have seen from recent history that abortion cuts deep enough into people’s awareness that oversteps by the so-called pro-lifers tend to incite a backlash.

North Carolina’s pro-choice disposition has long been known to careful students of opinion in the state. What surprised me (and I have reviewed many polls like this one) is the sympathy this poll found for the legalization of marijuana. A supermajority, 60%, of North Carolina voters favor legalizing either medical or both medical and recreational marijuana. A large plurality of urban residents prefer the legalization route, which is relevant to the hotly contested Wake County District Attorney’s race. There is simply no excuse for District Attorney Lorrin Freeman to continue prosecuting low-level drug crimes.

Nowhere is the breakdown of North Carolina’s democracy more blatant than on the issue of Medicaid Expansion. While Republican legislators have blockaded efforts to expand year after year and the conservative intelligentsia rages against Medicaid, North Carolina voters favor the step by jaw-dropping margins. Overall, 71% of North Carolinians support Medicaid Expansion to only 17.3% who side with the stone wall of opposition that is the NC General Assembly. Even “very conservative” voters–the heart of the Republican primary electorate–support Medicaid Expansion by 55% to 35%. This is an instance of where the pact between voters and their supposed representatives has become completely broken.

Finally, Roy Cooper’s numbers deserve examination. This man seemingly has the ability to keep the trust and admiration of North Carolina voters in any political climate. Despite a political environment that Joe Biden’s pollster judged “the worst of [his] lifetime,” Governor Cooper’s approval ratings till come in at 50% positive to 35% negative. North Carolina voters seem to fundamentally like the governor. If Democrats emerge from this fall’s drubbing with any power at all, Cooper should be at or near the top of the list of successors to President Joe Biden.


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