- President Biden’s approval rating has improved a little, but is still deeply underwater in North Carolina
- Voters support preserving abortion access; electorate shows a gradual shift leftward in political outlook
- Bucking the midterm election trend, voters evenly divided on the state legislature generic ballot
It’s August, which means two things in North Carolina: it’s way too hot outside (a good time for a watermelon milkshake), and political campaigns are gearing up for a sprint to the Election Day finish line just three months away. In the penultimate Carolina Forward Poll before this fall’s midterm general election, North Carolina voters still say they’re unhappy with President Biden, but are generally evenly divided about which party they wish to be in charge. They also report conflicting trends in their political outlook – except for Republicans, who say COVID has made them shift dramatically to the right.
The latest Carolina Forward Poll, conducted August 3-4, showed that North Carolina voters overall disapprove of President Biden’s job performance by a 13-point margin of 52% to 39%, with 9% unsure. Yet that disapproval remained relatively contained. The poll also shows that support for Governor Roy Cooper remains positive, with 46% approving of his job performance and 42% disapproving (11% unsure). On the heels of numerous major economic development wins for the Cooper administration, as well as the Governor’s strong and vocal support for reproductive freedom, voters seem to reward him for being a steady hand at the ship of state.
On the state legislative generic ballot, which asks voters which party they intend to vote for in the legislature, Republicans hold a 1-point advantage over Democrats, at 42% to 41%. 5% say they intend to vote for a candidate of another party, and 13% are undecided. This is a remarkable result for President Biden’s first midterm election. The party that occupies the White House traditionally pays a midterm “penalty,” which means that even factoring in that handicap, Democrats are still only 1 point behind. Republican pundits have loudly predicted a “red wave” resembling the 2010 or even 1994 watershed elections this November – words that might prove embarrassing if this level of support hold up.
Voters Support Abortion Rights – Again
The poll asked voters about their preferences on abortion rights, given the recent Supreme Court action with the Dobbs decision. Once again, the voters confirmed their support for abortion rights. Adding more restrictions to abortion access does not command majority support in any measured group besides Republican voters:
These results represent an erosion of support for anti-choice policies. In an earlier Carolina Forward Poll in May of 2021, 43% of voters said they thought abortion should be "illegal in most or all cases." With Republican-led legislatures around the country passing bans on abortion access, this movement of voters in support of choice is particularly notable.
COVID and Voters' Political Outlook
This Carolina Forward Poll asked voters a new question: how have the last 2 years of the global COVID pandemic affected their political outlook? In most groups of voters, a plurality responded that the pandemic has had no effect on their outlook. Republican voters, however, reported that they had become much more conservative - 50% more than any other cohort.
The poll asked another related question that puts these results into more context. In a follow-up to the same question from May 2021, it asked voters how they would describe themselves politically. The result is very similar, but with a slight leftward drift: 2 point more moderate, 4 points more in "somewhat liberal," and 4 points less in "somewhat conservative."
Though somewhat contradictory at first glance, these results demonstrate the complicated and layered political reaction to COVID that continues to reverberate through our political system. Conservatives seem to continue moving ever-further right, leaving moderates and liberals increasingly behind and skewing general samples. Moderates continue to be the single largest group of voters in North Carolina, and whichever side makes common cause with them will enjoy significant support that even gerrymandering will find difficult to suppress.
The Carolina Forward Poll was conducted August 3-4, 2022 with 656 registered North Carolina voters weighted to reflect the general election electorate. The margin of error was 3.8%. The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling and commissioned by Carolina Forward.