Last week, Elon University released one of the more interesting and informative polls for political nerds like me. They tested North Carolinians political knowledge. They asked people if they could identify their elected officials, which party controls the legislature, the racial and gender make of the legislature, who controls the redistricting process, whether they think the process is fair or not, and whether they are motivated to vote.
Overall, voters can identify their federal elected representatives better than their state ones, though 82% could identify Gov. Roy Cooper. Sixty-two percent could identify Sen. Richard Burr, 56% could identify Sen. Thom Tillis and 48% could identify their Member of Congress. However, only 22% could identify their state representative and only 17% could identify their state senator. The one outlier, Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry, was identified by 49%. More on that in a moment.
The vast majority, 86%, know that Republicans control the General Assembly but they don’t know much about the demographic makeup. They don’t know much about who controls the redistricting process, either, but a plurality, 47%, believe the process is unfair.
Within the crosstabs, the rural-urban divide is evident. While a urban voters did a slightly better job than rural ones of identifying their Member of Congress, 57% of rural voters could identify their sheriff while only 35% of urban voters could and only 45% of suburban ones could. Significantly more rural voters could identify their representatives in the state legislature, too. Urban voters, many of whom moved to North Carolina fairly recently, have a more national or global perspective while rural voters are more focused locally.
Cherie Berry is the big exception. She’s known by almost half of the people, probably because her name and photo are in elevators across the state. Fifty-nine percent of urban dwellers know her while only 44% of rural ones do. Folks in cities spend more time in elevators.
Finally, 62% of the registered voters polled said they are extremely motivated to vote. However, 72% of Democrats are while only 59% of Republicans feel that way. That’s the enthusiasm gap we hear so much about.
I love this poll. It really tells us a lot about the electorate that traditional polls don’t. In this upcoming Blue Moon election, incumbent members of the General Assembly should be concerned. Their constituents don’t know them, opening the door for challengers to define them early. Democrats are significantly more interested in the election than Republicans. And Democrats’ attempt to brand Cherie Berry as the Elevator Lady backfired, giving her name recognition that other Council of State members would love to have.
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 >