U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan's approval ratings continue to slide 

Only one-third of North Carolina registered voters approve of U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan's job performance, her lowest rating in a year, according to the latest Elon University Poll.

Hagan was the only politician in the poll whose job approval rating dropped since November. President Barack Obama, Gov. Pat McCrory and Sen. Richard Burr all achieved at least modest gains. Forty-nine percent of respondents said they disapproved of Hagan’s job performance, her worst rating in a year.

“Kay Hagan’s slight drop in approval rating would not necessarily be a concern by itself. However, this is the fourth straight fall in a year. And this last decline occurred when many elected counterparts saw increases in approval ratings. The trend suggests the Senator will face a tougher-than-expected reelection battle this November,” said Dr. Jason Husser, Assistant Director of the Elon University Poll.

The live-caller telephone poll of 925 registered voters was conducted Feb. 23-26, and has a margin of error of 3.22 percentage points. The sample is of the population in general with numbers that included both landlines and cell phones.

Hagan, a Democrat, faces a tough re-election fight this year as the national GOP has identified North Carolina as a state to win. Television advertisements attacking her support of the Affordable Care Act have been running across the state since January. Fifty-two percent of respondents in Elon’s latest poll said they thought Obamacare would make health care worse, and only 30 percent said it would improve care.

Since the Elon University Poll in November, Hagan has lost support among two key constituencies. In November, 63 percent of Democrats favored her job performance, compared with 55 percent last month.  Thirty-three percent of women gave her a thumbs up in February versus 40 percent in November.

Meanwhile, N.C. Rep. Thom Tillis, speaker of the N.C. House and a leading candidate in the GOP primary for Senate, is raising his visibility. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they recognized his name, an increase from 28 percent in November. Of those, 18 percent had a favorable opinion of him, 34 percent unfavorable, and 48 percent didn’t know.

Still, 59 percent of total respondents said they did not recognize his name.

Gov. McCrory saw a slight uptick in his approval rating to 36 percent in February from 33 percent in November.

President Obama had an even smaller increase. Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they approved of how he was doing his job, up from 37 percent in November.

More respondents disapprove of how Obama and McCrory are doing their jobs: 51 percent for Obama and 43 percent for McCrory.

Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican not facing re-election this year, also saw a small increase in his approval rating. Thirty-three percent approved of the job he is doing compared with 30 percent in November. Thirty-two percent disapproved, and 35 percent said they didn’t know.

Both Congress and the N.C. General Assembly continue to perform poorly in the eyes of North Carolinians. Only 8 percent of respondents approve of the work of Congress, the same percentage as November. The General Assembly fared better, with a 28 percent approval rating, but it had dropped 4 percentage points from November.

On the issues, most North Carolina registered voters oppose the legalization of marijuana, 51 percent to 39 percent.

Fifty-one percent said they oppose gay marriage, and 40 percent said they support it. In 2012, North Carolinians approved an amendment to the state constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage and unions by a margin of 60 percent to 39 percent. Since then, courts in six states have thrown out laws and amendments pertaining to same-sex marriage bans.

“Trends in various national public opinion polls seem to suggest growing support for gay marriage. Our recent survey seems to suggest the opposite dynamic in North Carolina. Opposition to same-sex marriage has increased slightly since last September,” said Dr. Kenneth Fernandez, Director of the Elon University Poll.

Last month, a Duke Energy coal ash pond dumped thousands of tons of toxic coal ash into the Dan River, contaminating water and wildlife. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they have heard a great deal about the spill, 38 percent said they have heard a little about it, and 26 percent are unaware of it.  


Using a computer-assisted telephone interviewing lab on campus, Elon University conducts frequent regional and statewide surveys on issues of importance to North Carolinians as well as other Southern states. Information from these polls is shared with media, citizens and public officials to facilitate informed public policymaking through the better understanding of citizens’ opinions and attitudes.