Approval ratings decline for president, governor, Congress, General Assembly, U.S. Senators

North Carolinians are dissatisfied with many of their elected officials and political institutions, according to the latest Elon University Poll.

Fifty-four percent of registered voters disapproved of President Barack Obama’s job performance. Congressional approval is at historic lows. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s approval numbers continue to decline, with only a third of voters approving of his performance as the state’s executive, and both of North Carolina’s U.S. Senators saw noticeable decreases in approval ratings.

“Approval ratings declined across the board. The president, Congress, the governor, General Assembly and both U.S. Senators saw drops in job approval,” said Assistant Professor Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon University Poll.

The live-caller, dual frame (landline and cell phone) survey of 681 registered voters was conducted November 15-18, 2013, and has a margin of error of 3.76 percentage points.

The Governor of North Carolina

Pat McCrory’s job approval continues to slip. This survey found 33 percent of registered voters approve of the job the governor is doing, compared to 36 percent in September and 46 percent this past April. McCrory has relatively strong support from Republicans (64 percent), but approval from Independents (29 percent) and Democrats (15 percent) is thin.

North Carolina’s U.S. Senators

Respondents were asked how they viewed the job performances of Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who is up for re-election in 2014, and her colleague from North Carolina, Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.

Kay Hagan

  • Approve: 37 percent
  • Disapprove: 44 percent
  • Don’t Know: 19 percent

Richard Burr

  • Approve: 30 percent
  • Disapprove: 33 percent
  • Don’t Know: 36 percent

Approval ratings for both senators seemed affected by the government shutdown. Although Hagan’s approval numbers only declined by 1 percentage point, her disapproval numbers jumped up more than 8 points. Burr’s approval numbers dropped more than 6 points, while his disapproval numbers increased by almost 6 points. Although Burr’s disapproval numbers increased to 33 percent, they are far lower than Hagan’s disapproval numbers (43.5 percent). When asked about Burr’s job performance most respondents (35.5 percent) said they “didn’t know.” Far fewer respondents (19 percent) said “don’t know” when asked about Hagan, a clear product of the fact that Hagan is running for reelection in 2014.

And in the Republican bid to unseat Hagan next year, the three potential challengers currently viewed as frontrunners in the Republican primary carry relatively little name recognition.

“Since neither Mark Harris nor Greg Brannon have held elected office it is not surprising that their name recognition among potential voters is much lower than Thom Tillis, the Speaker of the House in the state legislature,” Fernandez said.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they recognize the name Thom Tillis, the Speaker of the House of the North Carolina House of Representatives. And of those who do recognize his name, 19 percent hold a favorable opinion of him, while 32 percent said they view him unfavorably. Forty-six percent said they didn’t know how they felt.

The Rev. Mark Harris, a minister from Charlotte, carries even less name recognition with 17 percent of respondents who said they recognize Harris’s name. Of those who do, 25 percent view him favorably; approximately 18 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Harris, and 56 percent of respondents who recognize his name don’t know how they feel about Harris. Republican Greg Brannon, a doctor from Cary, had the lowest name recognition with less than 10 percent of registered voters recognizing his name.

The Reputation of North Carolina

Most registered voters (43 percent) felt the national reputation of North Carolina as a good place to live has gotten worse, compared to 34 percent who said it has stayed the same and 21 percent who felt the state’s reputation has improved. Republicans were more likely to think the state’s reputation has improved (29 percent), compared to 19 percent of Independents, and 16 percent of Democrats. Women (48 percent) were more likely to say the state’s reputation has been tarnished than men (37 percent). Younger respondents (age 18-30) were more likely to say North Carolina’s reputation has gotten worse.

Q: Compared to a year ago, do you think the national reputation of North Carolina as a good place to live has improved, stayed the same, or gotten worse?

  • Improved: 21 percent
  • Stayed the same: 34 percent
  • Gotten worse: 43 percent
  • Don’t know: 3 percent

“Opinions of North Carolinians are currently as markedly divided and polarized as any time in the history of public opinion polling,” said Assistant Professor Jason Husser, assistant director of the Elon University Poll.

U.S. Congress and the North Carolina General Assembly

For most of 2013 the approval rating for Congress seemed to increase slowly from historic lows. In February, approval for Congress was just above 10 percent. This increased to 11.6 percent in April and to almost 14 percent in September of this year. After the government shutdown this positive trend has reversed and approval ratings for Congress dropped to 8.2 percent.

Although approval for the General Assembly in Raleigh is much higher than it is for the U.S. Congress, approval remains fairly low. Just less than 32 percent of voters said they approve of the state legislature’s job performance.

Voter Identification

Sixty-five percent of registered voters support the law requiring photo identification in order to vote. This is a 5-point drop in support since September. Republicans (96 percent) are the most supportive of a voter ID law, followed by Independents (68 percent), then Democrats (36 percent). Although Republican support for the law has increased by 2 percentage points, support among Independents and Democrats has dropped 6 points.

September was the first time the Elon Poll found that a majority of Democrats and African Americans oppose photo identification requirements in order to vote. In prior polls a majority of both Democrats and African Americans supported the voter ID law. This recent poll confirms that a growing majority (62 percent) of Democrats and African Americans (69 percent) oppose the voter identification law.

The Affordable Care Act

The survey also found that healthcare/Obamacare is considered the most important issue in the country. Twenty-four percent of registered voters responded with healthcare or Obamacare when asked “what do you think is the most important issue in the United States?,” a 15 percent increase since September. Healthcare now eclipses the economy as the most important issue among registered voters in North Carolina.

Over half of registered voters (54 percent) believe Obamacare will make the healthcare situation in North Carolina worse. This is a 4-point increase since September. A majority (58 percent) of Democrats believe it will improve healthcare in the state, while only 24 percent of Independents and 5 percent of Republicans felt the same way. Women (34 percent) were more likely than men (27 percent) to think the Affordable Care Act would make things better. African Americans were optimistic about Obamacare than whites, with 55 percent believing Obamacare would improve healthcare in North Carolina (compared to 23 percent of whites). This is a 9 percentage point decline in optimism among African Americans since September.

“The decline in public support for elected officials, political institutions, and public policies is likely a response to new information and the increased media attention surrounding various political events, including the government shutdown, the Obamacare implementation problems, and the legal challenges to North Carolina’s new election laws,” Fernandez said.