Poll Alert! (Elon University)

by | Sep 19, 2013 | Carolina Strategic Analysis, Features, Poll Analysis


The folks at Elon University have released a new survey with questions on the current state of politics here in NC. Here is a link. I’ll comment on the aspects of the poll that I find revealing or interesting.

Obama Approval
38% Approve
51% Disapprove

This is not a good number for the President and is in line with the earlier poll from High Point which had Obama’s approval at about 40%. PPP’s 48% approval rating is definitely an outlier, and points to the possibility that their last poll was skewed in favor of Democrats. If Obama’s numbers fail to improve, they have the potential to really hurt Kay Hagan. Most of the deterioration comes from the Syria debacle, so once that’s out of the news things will probably improve for him. Hagan will almost certainly face an electorate that disapproves of the President’s performance, however.

McCrory Approval
36% Approve
46% Disapprove

McCrory’s approval rating is even worse than Obama’s, but that’s because less people have an opinion of him overall. Once more we find that PPP has a much higher disapproval rating for the governor than the other two polls. Still, this isn’t a good situation for McCrory to be in. All the polls are in agreement that the governor has become unpopular and his approval numbers have steeply declined.

State legislature approval
32% Approve
48% Disapprove

No surprise here; the legislature is unpopular. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the legislature isn’t more unpopular. The difference with PPP is stark. PPP presents a legislature that is wildly unpopular and out of touch with state residents. Elon’s numbers reveal that the legislature is also unpopular, but not to the extent of PPP’s results.

Hagan Approval
38% Approve
35% Disapprove

Here we find PPP and Elon in agreement: Hagan’s approval rating is in positive territory, but she can’t be termed popular by any means. She’s mostly unknown. These numbers are similar to Richard Burr’s at this point in the 2010 election cycle, leaving him at the mercy of the national environment, which proved to be quite favorable to him and his party. At least at the national level, a similar wave in the making for Democrats next year seems unlikely. At the state level, it’s a different story.

Burr Approval
37% Approve
28% Disapprove

In both PPP and Elon we see that Burr is less known than Hagan. This is surprising because Burr has been elected statewide twice. The difference between the two polling companies is that PPP consistently shows Burr with mediocre numbers, but Burr is at +9 net approval here, which isn’t too bad. Burr’s disapproval rating is only slightly more than the percentage of voters with no opinion as to his Senate performance.

Tillis Name Recognition
31% Recognize
67% Don’t Recognize

This statistic proves how little voters pay attention to the state legislature, which means Democrats might have more work to do. Notably, PPP had Tillis’s name recognition at 46%. Perhaps PPP’s sample was more well-informed.

Tillis Favorability (of those who recognize Tillis)
22% Favorable
35% Unfavorable
43% Don’t Know/Neither

Among those that know him, Tillis is unpopular. The question is, which voters are more likely to know who Tillis is? Democrats or Republicans? If it’s a representative sample, then that’s not good news for the House Speaker. It’s just one more obstacle he’ll have to surmount in order to beat Kay Hagan next November.

Berger Name Recognition
33% Recognize
64% Don’t Recognize
3% Clueless

Berger’s name recognition is higher than Tillis’s here.

Berger Favorability (of those who recognize Berger)
21% Favorable
30% Unfavorable

Berger is known by more people and has better favorable ratings than Tillis, which is the exact opposite of what PPP has consistently found. It would be interesting to see a breakdown by region. Perhaps Berger’s non-campaign is getting a lot of attention, and support?

Is state on the right track or wrong track?
32% Right Track
59% Wrong Track

It might be hard for people to separate their concerns with the state from national concerns. If seen as a referendum on Republican policies, then voters are unhappy with their new conservative government. It’s not clear how relevant this statistic is, however.

Which party deserves more blame for NC being on the wrong track?
19% Democrats
49% Republicans
27% Neither

Caution! This question applies to those who already said that the state was on the wrong track. Of those, a near-majority say Republicans are to blame. All in all, roughly 29% of voters think both (1) the state is on the wrong track, and (2) Republicans are to blame. 11% think the state is on the wrong track and that Democrats are to blame for it. The majority of NC residents think either the state is on the right track, aren’t sure, or think we’re on the right track and don’t think any party in particular is to blame.

Recognize Moral Mondays?
60% Recognize
39% Don’t Recognize

More voters recognize Moral Mondays than they do Thom Tillis or Phil Berger. 39% don’t know anything about Moral Monday, which means they must not read the News & Observer. If these people don’t know what Moral Monday is by now, then they’ll probably never know, which means the chance that they’ll be motivated to vote for Democratic candidates on the basis of these protests is quite low indeed.

Moral Monday Favorability(of those who know what Moral Monday is)
48% Favorable
32% Unfavorable

Surprise, surprise … those who know what the Moral Monday protests are more likely than not to see them in a favorable light. Once again, the important thing is that these are people who already know about Moral Monday. Doing a little math, we see that about 29% of voters, total, like Moral Monday. This is exactly the same percentage of voters who think North Carolina is on the wrong track and that Republicans are to blame. Basically, Democrats can count on the staunch support of 29% of voters, but we already knew that anyway.
Another 19% of voters think Moral Mondays suck. This is not to say that these are automatic Republican voters. Some people might disagree with Republican policies, but at the same time don’t like the people protesting or William Barber or whatever. Finally, 12% of voters know about the protests but don’t know what to think of them, while the remaining 39% are completely in the dark, and these protests in Raleigh and all across the state might as well be taking place on Pluto.

Going into the Moral Monday crosstabs, we find that whites (60-39) are much more aware about Moral Mondays than blacks (52-47), which is not all that surprising, though the gap might be. By an 11-point margin, independents say that they like Moral Mondays. And even a fourth of Republicans say they have a favorable opinion of the protests. There’s also a gender gap, with females being much more supportive of the protests than males, and a racial gap: whites only narrowly (43-38) support Moral Monday, while blacks (69-13) think it’s great. Again, this comes from those who already know what Moral Monday is to begin with, and they’re more likely to be Democrats.

Thus, even though this poll asked a lot of great questions, it really doesn’t tell us much. It does confirm that the Republican legislature and Governor McCrory is unpopular, but not to the extent found in PPP’s surveys. A poll with head-to-head matchups for the Senate race would be greatly appreciated, since PPP’s is the only word we have to go on right now. One thing we can conclude: right now the political environment in NC favors Democrats, though to what extent and how long this will last is anyone’s guess. But if Democrats continue to be energized, that will have very real consequences at the ballot box next November, particularly in the Senate race.


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