O-Pinion

GOP legislature’s poll numbers bad, but could be worse

N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger sat down last year to talk to some of the many "Moral Monday" demonstrators who have protested Republican policies at the General Assembly.
N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger sat down last year to talk to some of the many "Moral Monday" demonstrators who have protested Republican policies at the General Assembly. tlong@newsobserver.com

Given all the negative headlines the Republican-led General Assembly has generated in Raleigh in the past couple of years, it isn’t too surprising that a new poll pegs the legislature’s approval rating at 19 percent.

But what you might find surprising is that that same poll, released Monday by Public Policy Polling, shows voters blame Democrats and Republicans equally for their antipathy toward Raleigh.

Asked if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion specifically of Republicans in the legislature, 32 percent of the 751 registered voters surveyed said they had a favorable opinion, compared to 50 percent unfavorable and 17 percent unsure.

That was nearly a mirror image of the ratings for the Democrats in Raleigh: 32 percent favorable, 51 percent unfavorable, 18 percent undecided.

Not a bad place for Republicans to be, considering how their red-state conservative policies on everything from voting rights to taxes to gay marriage have alienated broad swaths of North Carolina’s more moderate electorate.

The poll found that, in a hypothetical legislative race between generic Democratic and Republican candidates, 41 percent of voters would pick the Democrat and 43 percent would pick the Republican. Another 16 percent said they weren’t sure.

This on a poll featuring a fairly even distribution of respondents who were Democrat (43 percent), Republican (36 percent) and independent or other (22 percent).

On the hot-button social issue of the moment – the tensions between gay rights and religious freedom – most poll respondents rejected the conservative view favored by Republicans.

Fifty-six percent say N.C. business owners should not be allowed to refuse to serve gay customers; 31 percent said they should.

It’s just one poll. But it certainly seems to suggest North Carolina’s struggling Democratic Party has a lot of work to do.

--Eric Frazier

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