Gov. Pat McCrory and other Republican leaders say “outsiders” are stirring up trouble by protesting at the General Assembly in Raleigh. Now, arrest records, in-the-field research and statewide polling suggest McCrory and the GOP in fact face a growing problem from “insiders” – also known as rank-and-file North Carolinians.
At the state Republican convention in Raleigh this month, McCrory told the crowd that “Outsiders are coming, and they’re going to try to do to us what they did to Scott Walker in Wisconsin.” Republican Party Chairman Claude Pope was quoted by WTVD as saying: “All they’re left to do is try to bring in outside groups, whether they’re from Pennsylvania or from other parts of the state, union protesters, basically professional agitators.”
That must have been wishful thinking.
Last week, WRAL-TV examined who had been arrested in the weekly “Moral Monday” protests at the legislature. Of the 388 people arrested to that point, eight were from outside North Carolina, or 2 percent. The other 98 percent? True-blue North Carolinians.
And on Monday, Fred Stutzman of Eighty Percent Solutions did some research. Stutzman, an adjunct professor at UNC Chapel Hill, holds a Ph.D. in information science, a graduate certificate in quantitative research and a B.A. in economics.
Stutzman and a handful of other data collectors interviewed the crowd at this week’s protest to learn who they were. They interviewed 316 protesters and asked the person’s home ZIP code, race and age. Stutzman found that 311 were from North Carolina and five were from out of state. They were from all across North Carolina, mostly from the Triangle. In other words, if outside groups are playing any role, it’s not by doing the protesting themselves.
Sen. Thom Goolsby, in a column this month, called the protesters “mostly white, angry, aged former hippies.” He got the angry part right. By Stutzman’s count, the average age was 53, with a quarter of the protesters under age 36. The racial breakdown was similar to the state’s population as a whole: 80 percent white, 17 percent black and the rest Hispanic or other.
After studying these numbers, McCrory and legislative leaders should examine another set: from polls of North Carolinians. One this week from Public Policy Polling found extreme disapproval across party lines for the Republican-led legislature. Just 20 percent of voters approve of the General Assembly’s performance, while 56 percent disapprove. Only 10 percent of Democrats and only 20 percent of independents approve. But even among Republicans, more disapprove (40 percent) than approve (36 percent).
McCrory’s being dragged down by the same sentiment. PPP says his approval numbers, while still respectable, are the lowest since he took office: 45 percent approve of his job performance compared with 39 percent who disapprove. That six-point gap is down from a 26-point favorable spread in January. McCrory has especially lost his crossover appeal, with Democratic support dropping markedly and independent support ticking down a bit.
If he’s looking for outsiders’ involvement in N.C. politics, McCrory should turn toward the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is helping shape conservative policy in the state. Or to Birmingham, Ala., where just Tuesday, a group of Republicans were meeting to talk about how to defeat North Carolina’s Sen. Kay Hagan next year.
Better yet, perhaps McCrory should stop worrying about outsiders and pay attention to those voters inside North Carolina who want to see a more moderate brand of politics from Raleigh.
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