Civitas released its last poll of 2013 this week. From now on, polling will be in an election year and in a few months, we’ll have real candidates running and advertising in legislative primaries. Slowly, the electorate will tune in and we’ll start to know more about what November 2014 will look like.

As we end the year, North Carolinians are not a happy lot. Fifty-seven percent say the state is on the wrong track and only 31% say it’s heading in the right direction. In addition, almost 60% say that we will be mired in recession for at least two more years. And while economists say the recession has ended, less than 10% of recipients believe that it has. That’s a pessimistic outlook.

Politicians aren’t popular, either. Pat McCrory fairs better than most but his approval ratings are split with 45% approving and the same number disapproving. They are also split in the generic ballot over the legislature with 42% saying they would choose a Democrat and 39% saying they would choose a Republican. Obama’s approval remains upside down with 45% approving and 54% disapproving, including 66% of independents who disapprove of the President.

This poll indicates that the Democrats that I’ve been talking to are living in a bit of a bubble. While they are sure that a movement is building behind Moral Mondays and outrage at the legislature, there is no evidence of it. That’s not to say the Democratic base is not motivated, but their view that this past legislative session was a disaster has not seeped into the minds of swing voters who decide elections.

Both sides have some bright spots. There is a gender gap in legislative elections. Forty-five percent of women say they would vote for a Democrat while only 34% would support the Republican. While more men, 43%, support a Republican candidate, 39% would support a Democrat, a much narrower margin. Women make up a large portion of the electorate than men.

At the Federal level, Obamacare or health care are the driving issues. I have to believe that’s good for Republicans, though, personally, I think that will change over the next few months. At the state level, voters say education, schools and teacher pay are at the top of the minds. Democrats should benefit from these issues.

Over the next few months, a lot will change. However, Republicans need to hope for a nationalized election, a good bet. Democrats need to localize the races. If the economy improves significantly, both parties may benefit from a status quo election. Kay Hagan may have an easier time saying her party has helped get things moving again and the GOP in North Carolina will take credit for their so-called “reform agenda.”

Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >

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