Half of N.C. voters approve of job Cooper doing as governor, support legalizing medical marijuana

The spring Elon University Poll also delved into issues including firearms on private property, the legal smoking age, climate change, HB2 and craft beer distribution.

Full Report with Methodology & Cross Tabs

The latest Elon University Poll finds that nearly half of North Carolina voters approve of the job Gov. Roy Cooper has been doing since taking office in January, with four in 10 saying that he is doing a better than his predecessor, Pat McCrory.

A majority of N.C. voters disapprove of Congress and the N.C. General Assembly, and are split in their feelings about North Carolina’s two U.S. Senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, with slightly larger segments disapproving of the job each politician is doing in Washington D.C.

Asked about various policies and proposals now being debated in the state legislature, voters are supportive of legislation that would legalize the medical use of marijuana, with 80 percent backing such a proposal, though when it comes to legalizing the drug for recreational use, only 45 percent approve.

In regards to firearms, strong majorities of voters oppose legislation being considered by the N.C. General Assembly to allow gun owners with concealed carry permits to bring firearms onto private property and onto college campuses.

About two-thirds of N.C. voters say that the state is still suffering from the fallout of House Bill 2, the so-called “bathroom bill,” that brought national attention to the state. Sixty five percent say North Carolina’s national reputation is worse than before HB2 was passed into law, while 24 percent say it has stayed about the same.

This final report from the spring Elon Poll also includes voter opinions about how craft brewers should be able to distribute their beer, a potential increase in the legal age to buy tobacco products, the impact of global warming on the N.C. coast and the age at which a person can be tried for a crime as an adult.

The live-caller, dual frame (landline and cell phone) survey of 506 likely voters was conducted from April 18-21. Survey results in this news release present responses from registered voters who were classified as likely voters in the Nov. 8 election and has a margin of error of +/- 4.36 percentage points.

Views of Cooper, other government leaders

Roy Cooper, who took office in January after winning the governor’s mansion by a slim margin, has the backing of 48 percent of the state’s voters, with that support split clearly along party lines. Among Democrats, 70 percent approve of the job he is doing compared to 24 percent of Republicans. Half of independent voters back him. More than half — 52 percent — of Republican voters disapprove of Cooper, compared to 11 percent of Democrats and 28 percent of independents. One in five of all voters say they don’t know whether they approve or disapprove of the job he’s doing.

“Governor Cooper is clearly enjoying a honeymoon period of public support in North Carolina,” said Jason Husser, director of the Elon Poll. “That he is 19 points net positive in an otherwise divided state gives him some leeway to use soft power even as the legal powers of the office have recently declined.”

Cooper enjoys slightly stronger support among black voters, with 54 percent saying they approve of the job he is doing compared to 47 percent of white voters. Baby Boomers — those born between 1945 and 1964 are most likely to approve of Cooper, with 51 percent falling into that camp.

Likewise, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say that Cooper is doing a better job than former Governor Pat McCrory. Seventy one percent of Democrats say Cooper is doing better than McCrory, compared to just 8 percent of Republicans. Black voters were more likely to say Cooper is doing a better job than white voters, and female voters were also more likely to say Cooper’s doing better than his predecessor.

“Governor McCrory had positive approval numbers very similar to Governor Cooper’s when the Elon Poll first asked about McCrory’s job performance in April 2013,” Husser said. “Governors have a tendency to become less popular over time. However, Cooper is currently in a strong position to craft a solid foundation of support in North Carolina.”

N.C. voters largely disapprove of the job the state and federal legislative branches are doing, with Congress receiving lower marks than the N.C. General Assembly. Seventy five percent of voters say they disapprove of how Congress is doing its job, with Democrats and male voters more likely to disapprove. The N.C. legislature fared better, with 54 percent of voters saying they disapprove of the job the General Assembly is doing. Democrats and black voters were more likely to disapprove, but even 38 percent of Republicans disapprove of how the legislature, which is led by members of their own party, is doing its job.

North Carolina’s U.S. Senate delegation — Republicans Richard Burr and Thom Tillis — are not receiving strong job evaluations from N.C. voters.  Tillis wins approval from only 29 percent of voters, with 37 percent disapproving of his job performance. Burr’s numbers are evenly split, with 40 percent disapproving of his job performance and 39 percent approving.

“Though Senators Burr and Tillis have approval numbers less robust than their counterparts from less politically diverse states, both are considerably more popular than Congress as a whole,” Husser said.

N.C. voters are clear that they want their elected representatives who represent them in Congress to participate in town hall meetings with constituents on a regular basis. Among all voters, 74 percent say such meetings are “very important,” with Democrats more likely to say it is very important than Republicans. Black voters are also more likely than white voters to say town hall meetings are “very important.”

Marijuana: medical and recreational uses

Twenty-nine states have signed off on the medical use of marijuana, and a strong majority of N.C. voters say they agree with their state becoming the 30th. Asked their opinions on the legalization of marijuana for medical use, 80 percent say they approve of such a move, with 17 percent opposed. Democrats and independent voters are the most likely to say they support medical marijuana legalization, with 83 percent of each group on board, while 73 percent of Republicans approve of such a move.

While there is strong support for legalizing marijuana for medical use, that support falls away when asked about making recreational use of marijuana legal. Among N.C. voters, 51 percent say they oppose the legalization of recreational marijuana use compared to 45 percent who support such a measure. Support for legalization is strongest among Millennials, those born since 1981, with 65 percent on board with such a move. By comparison, only 11 percent of members of the Silent Generation — those born in 1944 or earlier — support the legalization of recreational marijuana use.

Looking at gender, 53 percent of male voters support legalization compared to 38 percent of female voters, and Democrats (49 percent) were more likely to support legalization than Republicans (33 percent).

Firearms on private property, college campuses

N.C. voters are largely opposed to expanding the ability of gun owners with concealed carry permits to bring their firearms onto private property or college campuses. The Elon Poll found that 74 percent of voters oppose allowing gun owners to bring firearms onto private property against the property owner’s wishes, compared with only 20 percent who favor that right. The opposition to this legislation ranges from 89 percent among Democrats to 51 percent among Republicans. Thirty eight percent of Republicans favor such a measure compared to only 9 percent of Democrats.

There was slightly less opposition when the property owner is a college or university. Sixty nine percent of N.C. voters are opposed to allowing gun owners with concealed carry permits to bring firearms on campus and 24 percent in favor, with a strong divide based on party. Among Democrats, 92 percent are opposed compared to 51 percent of Republicans. Forty one percent of Republicans support such an idea compared to 5 percent of Democrats.

Female and black voters have the strongest opposition to firearms on campus. Eighty three percent of black voters oppose such a move compared to 65 percent of white voters, and 74 percent of female voters do not think firearms should be brought on campus compared to 62 percent of male voters.

“The overwhelming majority of North Carolina voters are opposed to concealed carry permits overriding the interests of private property owners and college leaders,” Husser said.

Other state issues

The Elon Poll delved into a wide range of issues now being considered by the General Assembly including whether the state should raise the legal age for the purchase of tobacco products as well as the age a person has to be to be tried as an adult.

On the tobacco issue, two-thirds said they support raising the minimum age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products from 18 to 21, compared to 28 percent who oppose such a move. The issue showed harmony between Democrats and Republicans, with about three in four of both groups supporting the age increase. Baby Boomers were the most in favor of an age increase, with 74 percent voicing their support.

More than half of N.C. voters support increasing the legal age at which a person can be tried as an adult in criminal court. Among all voters, 55 percent say the age should be raised from 16 to 18, while 37 percent oppose the move. Democrats (63 percent) and independents (59 percent) are more likely to support the age increase than Republicans, who oppose the move by a 52 to 41 margin.

Nearly two out of three N.C. voters say that the national reputation of North Carolina is worse since it began making headlines for its passage last year of House Bill 2, the so-called “bathroom bill” that has since been repealed. While 65 percent said the state’s reputation is worse, 24 percent say “about the same” and 7 percent say “better.” Democrats and Republicans are split on the issue. Among Democrats, 74 percent say “worse” and 19 percent say “about the same,” compared to 49 percent of Republicans who say “worse” and 35 percent who say “about the same.”

To gauge opinions about climate change, the Elon Poll asked voters whether global warming would negatively impact the coast of North Carolina within the next 50 years. Close to half — 45 percent — say “very likely” while 28 percent say “somewhat likely” and 23 percent say “not at all likely.”

As with many issues, party affiliation again factored in. While 75 percent of Democrats said climate change was “very likely” to negatively impact North Carolina’s coastal communities within the next 50 years, 13 percent of Republicans held the same view. A plurality of Republicans — 45 percent — said such a negative impact was “not at all likely.”

There also appears to be a tie to age. Millennials are the most likely to say that a negative impact from climate change was “very likely” while the Silent Generation is the least likely to hold that view.

How the state should regulate the distribution of beer from North Carolina’s growing craft brewing industry has been a question before the General Assembly this year. Under current law, brewers who make more than 25,000 barrels of beer annually much contract with a distributor to distribute the beer to bars, restaurants and retailers.

Asked whether that 25,000-barrel limit should be eliminated to allow brewers to self-distribute regardless of their size, 61 percent of voters say yes while 16 percent oppose such a move and 19 percent say they didn’t know. Millennials, male and white voters are the most likely demographic groups to support the abolition of the distribution cap, while 62 percent of Republicans support the change compared to 48 percent of Democrats.