Two polls released this week show growing pessimism, frustration and political aggression among North Carolinians – but also a strong desire to vote in the coming elections.
The latest High Point University Poll, released Wednesday, measured consumer sentiment through five questions about how respondents view the U.S. economy and their own personal finances. Consumer sentiment was considerably worse than when the same questions were asked in February of this year, according to Brian McDonald, associate director of the HPU Poll and adjunct instructor.
Forty-nine percent of respondents said they and their family are worse off than they were a year ago. That number was 38 percent in February. Thirty percent said they were the same, just 18 percent said they were better off and two percent said they were unsure.
Among the other results:
– 30% of North Carolinians believe they will be worse off financially a year from now, compared to 26% of respondents in February 2022.
– 35% of respondents said they expect bad business conditions in the next 12 months. In February 2022, that number was 33%.
– 32% of respondents said that during the next five years or so, the country will have periods of widespread unemployment or depression.
– 44% of North Carolina residents said now is a bad time to make a major household purchase, compared to 39% in February 2022.
“The drop in North Carolinians’ sentiment since February is likely due to the consistent stream of bad results in financial markets,” said Dr. Peter Summers, associate professor of economics, in a statement released with the results. “Speculation that the country may be entering a recession in the near future would also cloud consumers’ outlook about the future. The drop in gasoline prices over the summer doesn’t seem to have had enough of a positive effect to counter these strong negative trends.”
Echoing that discontent among North Carolinians, Meredith College released the results of its latest polling Thursday.
North Carolinians are pessimistic about the direction of both the country and the state, the Meredith polling found.
Just one-in-five of respondents said they thought the country was moving in the right direction. While those numbers were low among Democrats and Republicans alike, there is a split reflected in party identification, age and race. Just over 40 percent of Democrats said they thought the country is going in the right direction. While that’s less than half, the number was significantly worse among Republicans. Less than 7 percent of GOP-identifying respondents said the country was moving in the right direction.
Black respondents and younger respondents were more likely to say the country is moving in the right direction.
At the state level, there was more optimism.
Just over 40 percent of respondents said the state is moving in the right direction while half said it is heading in the wrong direction. The state data closely followed the partisan, age and race differences on those opinions.
Approval ratings for President Joe Biden and Gov. Roy Cooper reflected the pessimism at the national and state levels, but Cooper fared better than Biden.
Biden’s approval rating is at 40 percent in the Meredith polling, with 56 percent expressing disapproval. That gap in approval is much larger than the poll found a year ago, but again approval varied by partisanship as well as age and race. Biden’s approval is greater than disapproval with voters 18-24 as well as Black voters and those with graduate degrees. Republican approval of the president was at just 8 percent.
Cooper, the state’s highest ranking Democrat, had significantly higher approval. Over 55 percent of respondents said they approve of the job he’s done as governor with just one-third disapproving. There was a partisan split, though much less dramatic – 83 percent of Democrats approving of Cooper’s performance and 31 percent of Republicans. About 50 percent of unaffiliated voters said they approved.
“The mood of the North Carolina electorate is decidedly unhappy,” said David McLennan, director of the poll. “Normally numbers like these would indicate that the party in power and their candidates would suffer in an election year. However, because of gerrymandered districts in congressional and legislative races, we may not see many seats turning over from one party to another.”
That doesn’t mean voter turnout will be low.
Over two-thirds of respondents said they plan on voting before or on Election Day, with Democrats and Republicans equally eager to go to the polls. Over 83 percent of respondents said they are likely to vote with over 85 percent of both Democrats and Republicans saying they are very likely to vote.
“The turnout in the 2018 midterm elections was 53 percent,” said McLennan in his statement. “So we are likely to see an increase in overall voter turnout from that election. The stakes appear very high to respondents in our poll.”
One factor likely to animate and influence voters: the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, ending the national right to abortion.
Over 40 percent of North Carolinians indicated that this decision made them more likely to vote, with both partisan and gender splits. Democrats were nearly twice as likely to state the Dobbs decision increased their interest in voting (56.1% v. 28%). Women and Black voters were both more likely to say the decision will influence their voting decision, as were those with higher levels of education.
“Supreme Court decisions often affect voter turnout,” said McLennan in his statement. “Brown v. Board of Education increased voter turnout in 1954, for example. The Dobbs decision appears to be influencing voters in North Carolina, especially those that might favor Democratic candidates.”
Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents said they disapprove of the job the Supreme Court is doing while 44 percent said they approve. Democrats and unaffiliated voters had the lowest approval rates (30 percent and 40 percent respectively), while 62.5 percent of Republican voters approved of the job the high court is doing.
“It is clear that the current conservative majority on the Court and its recent rulings have affected Democrats and Democrat-leaning unaffiliated voters in North Carolina,” McLennan said in a statement released with the results. “The Dobbs ruling in particular has made those voters see the Court as a more partisan institution.”
See the full Meredith polling results here.