The Legislature Gets a Failing Grade

March 20, 2022

It’s very difficult to get most voters to agree about anything these days. But on at least one issue, the voters are more or less united: the North Carolina legislature is doing a rotten job. This is partly because voters see the legislature as focused more on getting themselves elected again, and not on the issues people actually care about.

In the latest Carolina Forward polling, we asked voters for their view on the legislature’s job performance. The results speak for themselves.

By a 52-to-33 margin, voters overall disapprove of the state legislature's job performance. Remarkably, voters of both parties disapprove (and Independents most of all), even though the North Carolina legislature has solidly under Republican control for over a decade. Democrats disapprove of the legislature by a 16-point gap (52% to 36%), while Republicans disapprove "only" by 5 points (46% to 41%). Independents disapprove by a whopping 35 points (59% to 24%). There is not a single measurable voter group that approves of the state legislature's performance.

One possible reason for such widespread disapproval: voters do not believe the legislature is focused on their needs. This survey also asked voters what they believed state lawmakers should focus on the most. The results were unsurprising: jobs, the economy, education, healthcare and infrastructure lead the way:

Yet when asked what they believe state lawmakers are actually most focused on, the result was clear: redistricting, followed by uncertainty:

On this point, the voters were mostly correct: a great deal of the legislature's key business was effectively sidetracked for months as the state's redistricting process played out. Bills went unheard, committee business ground to a halt, and the politicians were sucked into the interminable finger-pointing around map-drawing. Republicans, who control the legislature's business and all of its committees, attempted to use redistricting as an opportunity to gerrymander another decade of their party's control of the legislature. (See Carolina Forward's analysis of the most up-to-date legislative maps.)

It is telling that the only two major pieces of legislation that got passed were top priorities for Raleigh's corporate lobbyist community: the state budget (which abolished taxes on corporations) and an energy bill ghostwritten behind closed doors by Duke Energy lobbyists.

Finally, we asked voters what state news stories they had been personally following. Voters' interests are diverse, and that emerged in the survey results, where economic conditions, redistricting and local mask requirements led the way:

North Carolina voters, regardless of party affiliation, are very unhappy with the leadership in Raleigh. Time will tell if, or how, that dissatisfaction appears in voting behavior later this year. But for now, one thing is certain: no politician in Raleigh should feel particularly comfortable. (Unless, of course, they're in a seat gerrymandered to be safe no matter what.)

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