With elections looming next week, a trio of North Carolina-based polls released this week give insight into the mood of the electorate, voters’ top concerns and how confident they are in the elections themselves.
The national economy continues to be a top issue for voters and the latest Elon University Poll, conducted Oct. 26 and 27, found most North Carolina voters giving it low marks.
Asked to give the current national economy a grade from A to F, a quarter of respondents gave it the lowest grade – up from 16 percent when the poll asked the same question two years ago. The largest number of respondents said they would give it a “C” while just three percent said they would give the economy an “A” – down from 7 percent two years ago.
Asked about their personal financial situations, 55 percent of respondents said it has gotten worse since 2020. Just 14 percent said it has gotten better.
The vast majority of respondents – 75 percent – said the national economy has gotten worse since 2020.
The poll found respondents tend to favor Republicans over Democrats on economic issues. Though President Joe Biden isn’t on the ballot this year, voters’ view on his culpability for the state of the economy and inflation could spell trouble for his fellow Democrats, said Jason Husser, director of the Elon Poll and associate professor of political science.
“Few North Carolina voters rate the economy highly, and four out of five say inflation is negatively affecting them personally,” Husser said in a statement on the poll results. “A majority of voters think President Biden is at least somewhat responsible for inflation, and more voters favor the Republican Party over the Democratic Party on the economy as an issue. These findings combined with the historical importance of the economy on midterm elections portend trouble for Democrats on the ballot in North Carolina.”
The latest High Point University Poll, conducted October 19-26, asked about a hot button economic concern – the price of gas – and who or what North Carolina residents believe deserves the blame for increases.
Asked about blame for the high price of gas, most respondents – 72 percent – said the COVID-19 pandemic deserves “some” or “a lot” of the blame.
“Big business in the United States” deserves some or a lot of the blame, according to 67 percent of respondents, followed by President Joe Biden (63 percent), Russia (63 percent), China (62 percent),the Federal Reserve Bank of the U.S. (60 percent) and Republicans in congress (52 percent). Respondents held U.S. consumers the least responsible, with 48 percent saying they deserved some or a lot of the blame.
The latest Meredith College Poll, conducted Oct 27-30, found more than 70 percent of North Carolina voters it polled dissatisfied with the direction of the country and the state.
Majorities in every demographic group said they were dissatisfied with the direction of the country. Though Republicans and self-described conservatives showed the largest dissatisfaction, a majority of Democrats also said they were dissatisfied.
“These results are no surprise,” said David McLennan, director of the poll. “Americans have been dissatisfied with the direction of the country for some time. Economic uncertainty, culture wars, and questions about the basic foundations of American government create this strong sense of dissatisfaction. This perpetual dissatisfaction leads to ‘change’ elections in which the party in power tends to suffer at the polls. This dissatisfaction would suggest that Democrats, unless they have historic turnout among these voters, could pay a steep price in this year’s midterm elections.”
The Meredith Poll found that while more respondents said the Democratic party cares more about the needs of people like them (39 percent), more also said the Republican party can better manage the federal government. In both questions, about 20 percent of respondents said neither party met those descriptions.
Husser, director of the Elon Poll, said the university’s polling on other issues makes it clear North Carolina remains a closely divided state and respondents feel more closely aligned with Democrats or Republicans based on which issues they are discussing.
The Elon Poll found a plurality of respondents said they felt closer to the Republican Party on issues including the economy, crime, immigration, foreign policy, the size of government, and oil, gas and energy issues. A plurality of respondents said they felt closer to the Democratic Party on issues including gun control, health care, voting policies, education, abortion, climate change and race relations. On every issue, at least 16 percent say they do not feel closer to either party on that issue.
The question, this election cycle, is which of those issues will carry the day.
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the poll found most North Carolina voters remain against a ban on abortion in the state. The Elon Poll found 53 percent of respondents would be somewhat or extremely dissatisfied if abortion was banned here while 28 percent said they would be somewhat or extremely satisfied. Another 19 percent said they would be neither.
“As a closely divided state, North Carolina is reflective of a national pattern in which neither party dominates on all issues for persuadable voters,” said Jason Husser, director of the Elon Poll and associate professor of political science. “As a result, campaigns are attempting to rally their bases while elevating their side’s preferred considerations on the top of unaffiliated voters’ minds. Our data suggests Republican candidates will do well to emphasize the economy while Democratic candidates have advantages on abortion, climate change, and race relations.”
While most of the polls found the mood of the electorate grim ahead of next week’s election, the Elon Poll did measure an uptick in one important area: confidence in election integrity itself.
Asked about their confidence the election process will be fair, 64 percent of respondents said they are somewhat or very confident. Another 22 percent said they are “only a little” confident while 15 percent said they are not confident at all.
A partisan split was apparent in the responses.
Among Democrats, 45 percent of respondents said they are “very” confident the election process will be fair while just 14 percent of Republicans expressed that much confidence. Nearly one in four Republicans said they are “not at all” confident while just 6 percent of Democrats said they felt that way. Half of Democratic respondents said they are “very” confident that votes will be counted properly compared to 16 percent of Republicans. Unaffiliated voters fell between those two polls in their confidence.
“While many North Carolinians continue to have concerns about the electoral process, we’re seeing an increase in confidence,” Husser said. “In particular, only half as many voters are very concerned about violence after the 2022 election compared to the 2020 election.”