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Elon poll tests state political knowledge – and finds it wanting

If knowledge is power, North Carolinians may notice the lights flickering – at least when it comes to state politics.

In a new Elon University poll  82 percent of respondents could identify Roy Cooper at the state’s governor but only 11 percent could correctly identify N.C. State Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and just eight percent could identify N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore.

Nearly half of respondents could name N.C. Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, whose name and photograph hang in elevators across the state. The survey accepted Berry’s nicknames of “Elevator Lady” and “Elevator Queen” as correct answers as well.

About 86 percent of respondents were able to correctly identify the Republican Party as holding a majority in the General Assembly.

While 46 percent of respondents could name their county’s sheriff, only 22 percent could name their state representative and 17 percent their state senator.

Respondents did much better on questions of who represents them in Washington, with 62 percent able to identify U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, 56 percent able to identify U.S. Senator Thom Tillis and 48 percent able to identify their U.S. House representative.

“Being able to identify the names of our local officials is a very basic, yet essential step for an individual to be civically engaged,” said Jason Husser, director of the Elon University Poll and assistant professor of political science, in a release on the poll results.

“Perhaps a sign of the times, most North Carolina voters are much better informed about their leaders in Washington than their leaders in Raleigh,” Husser said. “Importantly, the biggest state policy changes that could result from this year’s election cycle depend on the number of General Assembly seats held by one party or the other. While reassuring that most voters know which party controls the two chambers of the General Assembly, the vast majority are unable to identify the names of their local state legislators and the state’s most important legislative leaders.”

Husser said that while the results aren’t exactly encouraging, they are in line with the trend of people across the country having less knowledge about local and state politics than national politics.

Asked about the congressional redistricting process, almost half — 47 percent — said it is “not fair at all,” compared to 10 percent who said it was “mostly” fair and 15 percent who said it was “somewhat fair.” Another 27 percent said they didn’t know.

While 46 percent of respondents knew the General Assembly is in charge of the redistricting process, only 25 percent knew that the redistricting process takes place every 10 years after the U.S. Census. Only 15 percent of voters were able to answer both questions correctly.

“Who does redistricting? When does it typically happen? Knowing the answers to these two questions seems to me as the basic prerequisite for meaningful conversation about the complex topic,” Husser said in his statement. “However, less than one of every six registered voters could answer both questions correctly. This suggests that the North Carolina public still needs more time before any public consensus emerges in a state that has become central to the national debate about gerrymandering.”

Find the full poll, including  info on methodology, here.

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