In North Carolina, mixed approval for new state laws

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY, METHODOLOGY and CROSS TABS

DOWNLOADABLE GRAPHICS

North Carolinians show plenty of support for certain laws passed by the North Carolina General Assembly over the summer – namely, new rules requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls – but according to the latest Elon University Poll, when it comes to other changes like the loosening of concealed handgun laws, registered voters aren’t quite so happy.

And as states across the nation continue to implement new insurance exchanges required by the Affordable Care Act, half of those surveyed believe “Obamacare” will make the health care situation worse in North Carolina, compared to just 30 percent who believe the law will make things better.

The live-caller, dual frame (landline and cell phone) survey of 701 registered voters was conducted Sept. 13-16, 2013, with a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points. It asked a battery of questions related to public policies debated and, in some cases, changed during North Carolina’s most recent legislative session.

"Not surprisingly, support and opposition for specific policies often split down partisan lines, but there were a few things that Democrats, Republicans and independents could clearly agree on," said Assistant Professor Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon University Poll. “Those include required drug testing for welfare benefits, wind energy, no guns in bars, and that teachers are paid too little.”

HANDGUNS and CONCEALED CARRY LAWS

Just over half of respondents agreed with the statement that there should be more legal restrictions on handguns in society, a figure that was largely supported by Democrats (81 percent), women (64 percent) and African-Americans (81 percent).

However, 58 percent of men disagreed with the need for more restrictions, as did a majority of Republicans (67 percent) and whites (54 percent).

The poll found that respondents disagreed with statements reflective of changes to North Carolina’s concealed carry laws. Overall, 53 percent of respondents disagreed with allowing concealed carry permit holders to carry guns at public parks and playgrounds, and 73 percent disagreed with allowing permit holders to carry guns into bars.

The General Assembly passed legislation signed by the governor this summer that now allows both, though the new laws give bar owners the option of prohibiting weapons in their establishments.

Democrats, women and African-Americans were the primary groups who opposed the expansion of approved places for permit holders to carry a concealed weapon. Republicans, men and whites supported the idea.

TEACHER TENURE and PAY

North Carolina lawmakers this summer ended a teacher ‘tenure’ law that gave public school educators a four-year trial period, after which they could not be fired except by some kind of legal procedure. When asked, 53 percent of poll respondents signaled support for teacher tenure, while 38 percent oppose the notion of tenure for K-12 teachers.

Four out of five registered voters in North Carolina also believe that teachers are paid too little, compared to just 2 percent who feel they receive too much and 12 percent who described teacher pay as “about right.”

Democrats (66 percent) and independents (52 percent) offered the strongest support for tenure, while 50 percent of Republicans were against it.

Support for more teacher pay remained strong regardless of party identification, gender, race or age, though belief that teacher pay was too low was strongest among young respondents and began to dip among older populations. Nine out of 10 African Americans said pay was “too little” for teachers compared to 78 percent of whites.

VOTER ID and EARLY VOTING

One of the most polarizing debates in the North Carolina General Assembly in 2013 was over the issue of voter identification. Lawmakers passed legislation signed by Gov. Pat McCrory that now requires voters to show some sort of government-approved photo identification before they are allowed to vote.

Seventy percent of North Carolinians support that law, with Republicans (94 percent) and independents (74 percent) showing the strongest levels of agreement. Four out of five white respondents also said they approve of the photo identification requirement.

Fifty-four percent of Democrats opposed the measure, as do 55 percent of African-Americans.

"Support for a voter ID law has been broad and deep, consistently ranging in the 70 percent or higher across multiple surveys," Fernandez said. "But this was the first time that the Elon Poll found a majority of Democrats and a majority of African Americans opposing voter identification requirements."

The reduction in the amount of time given to vote early, however, was not received as well. Fifty-one percent of respondents disapprove of the reduction, compared to 38 percent who support it. Men and women are nearly equal in their levels of disagreement, and the strongest disapproval is from African-Americans, of whom 77 percent signaled their opposition.

Forty-three percent of whites supported the reduction; 14 percent said they didn’t know how they felt.

OBAMACARE

Respondents were asked about their perceptions of the Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare” by supporters and opponents alike, and 50 percent of respondents said they believe the health care law will make things worse for the health care situation in North Carolina. Twenty-nine percent believe the law will make things better while 14 percent don’t think it will make a difference.

Support and opposition break on party lines. Fifty-nine percent of Democrats are optimistic about the law, while 87 percent of Republicans say things are going to get worse. Gender made little difference in how respondents answered, nor did age, though registered voters between the ages of 18-30 comprised the largest bulk of those who say the law won’t make a difference.

Income had a slight effect on the results. Fifty-seven percent of those whose annual household incomes are greater than $75,000 expect the law to make the health care situation worse. That figure is at 41 percent for those whose household incomes are below $25,000 a year.

ENERGY

Energy options were another line of questions in the September poll. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they have heard at least “a little” about the drilling method known as “fracking” to extract natural gas from underground rock formations. And of those who have, 47 percent support the practice, while 40 percent oppose it.

Forty-seven percent of respondents support the increased use of nuclear power – and Republicans and men made up the bulk of support - but it was wind power that garnered the highest levels of interest from North Carolina registered voters. Eighty percent said they support the construction of wind energy facilities on the coast of the state. Support was strong among all ages, party affiliations, races and ages.

OTHER QUESTIONS

Q: Now, thinking more generally, do you think state laws in North Carolina should make access to an abortion more difficult or less difficult? 

More: 45 percent
Less: 41 percent
Don’t Know: 3 percent

Q: Do you believe a person should be required to take a drug test before receiving welfare benefits?

Yes: 74 percent
No: 23 percent
Don’t Know: 3 percent

Q: Do you support or oppose raising the minimum wage from 7 dollars and 25 cents per hour to 9 dollars per hour?

Support: 69 percent
Oppose: 27 percent
Don’t Know: 3 percent

Q: Do you support or oppose gay/same-sex marriage?

Support: 43 percent
Oppose: 47 percent
Don’t Know: 11 percent

Q: Should the Catawba Indian Nation in South Carolina be allowed to open a gambling casino in North Carolina?

Yes: 46 percent
No: 43 percent
Don’t Know: 11 percent