Republicans have lost some major elections in the South since President Donald Trump took office, but a new poll finds the GOP has reason for optimism in North Carolina.
The Meredith College poll found that there appears to be no difference in enthusiasm among Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated voters in North Carolina.
The poll, taken between Jan. 21 and 25, found not only that preferences for congressional and legislative candidates appear to be relatively equal, but that voters expressed a slight preference for Republican candidates.
“The analysts’ claim of a blue wave in North Carolina: right now it would look like a ripple,” if the election were held today, said David McLennan, a Meredith professor and director of the poll.
Asked about congressional races, respondents favored Republicans over Democrats 45.2 percent to 43.5 percent. The gap existed for legislative races too but was smaller, as respondents favored Republicans 43.3 percent to 42.5 percent for Democrats.
Furthermore, North Carolinians are divided along partisan lines about Trump. More Meredith respondents gave him favorable ratings (48.7 percent) than they did unfavorable ratings (47.7 percent). Still, a majority of North Carolina Republicans polled about Trump said the GOP should have another candidate to consider.
Several members of Congress are up for re-election this November as well as all members of the state General Assembly, where Republicans have so many members that they can override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper if he vetoes their legislation. If Democrats pick up either four state House seats or six state Senate seats in the November election, they’ll break the supermajority.
The Meredith results may come as a surprise, considering Trump’s low national approval ratings and a separate recent poll that found Democrats have an edge headed into elections this fall.
A Gallup poll found that Trump’s national approval rating was 38 percent and disapproval rating was 57 percent, during the week that Meredith conducted its poll.
Meanwhile, a Public Policy Polling poll conducted between Jan. 19 and 21 and released Jan. 23 found that 53 percent of Democrats were “very excited” to vote in midterm elections compared with 40 percent of Republicans. It also found Trump’s favorability to be 42 percent, five points lower than the Meredith poll.
The Meredith poll, which reported a 4 percent margin of error, resulted from 223 phone conversations and 395 email responses. The PPP poll, which reported a 3.4 percent margin of error, was based on a survey of 839 people – 74 percent by phone and 26 percent over the internet.
McLennan speculated that Trump’s favorability crept upward the week of the Meredith poll because there was “a relative lack of bad news coming out of Washington. Of course, the word relative is important.”
In the stock market, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hovered around 26,200 points that week but has fallen about 1,000 points since then.
The new tax law, passed by Congress and signed by Trump in December, divides North Carolinians.
Overall, about 40 percent of respondents favor the new bill, while one-third of those contacted are against it. However, the poll found that low taxes scored high across almost every demographic group as a source of satisfaction for many North Carolinians.
As for the state, “North Carolinians are generally more satisfied with the direction of the state than they are the direction of the country,” McLennan said. While two-thirds of respondents (about 66 percent) are dissatisfied with the direction of the country, 40 percent of North Carolinians are dissatisfied with the direction of the state.
Meredith respondents listed the economy, Cooper and lower taxes as their top reasons for feeling satisfied with the direction of the state. Cooper was also among the reasons some are dissatisfied with the direction of the state, behind Republicans in the state legislature and “partisanship” in general.
Forty-four percent of Meredith respondents gave Cooper favorable ratings while 27.3 percent gave him unfavorable ratings. The PPP poll found that 49 percent approve of Cooper and 33 percent disapprove.
As for the General Assembly: 35 percent of Meredith respondents gave it a favorable rating while 31 percent gave it an unfavorable rating. The PPP poll found just 19 percent of respondents approved of the General Assembly, while 51 percent gave negative reviews.
“In Raleigh, even though special sessions have been going on quite frequently, there wasn’t a lot of divisive news,” McLennan said of the week of the Meredith poll.
Voters expressed negative views of the news media, with 39 percent saying they strongly disapprove of its political coverage, compared with just 11 percent who strongly approve of it.