The backlash was swift following the passage of North Carolina’s HB2, aka the anti-LGBT “bathroom law.” Businesses cancelled expansion plans in the state, Bruce Springsteen cancelled a concert, and Duran Duran went on as planned, but made a strong statement about the law during their performance. In addition to those protests, the law may have a strong negative impact on Republicans in the 2016 election as well.
A new Elon University poll of North Carolina voters reveals that residents of the “Tar Heel” state are very unhappy with Governor Pat McCrory and the state legislature. McCrory was up against the tide in his re-election bid against state Attorney General Roy Cooper anyway. Many people think of North Carolina as a “red” state because since 1968 its electoral votes have gone to Republicans, with the singular exception of Barack Obama in 2008. But in state level politics North Carolina is really quite purple. McCrory is only the third Republican governor of the state since 1900, and only one of his two GOP predecessors was re-elected.
The Elon poll found that the job approval numbers for North Carolina Republicans are seriously under water. McCrory’s approval rating checks in at just 37 percent, the lowest approval rating for him since April 2014. His disapproval stands at 49 percent. Not exactly the numbers you want going into an election. Roy Cooper, McCrory’s opponent, comes out six points better, with a 43 percent job approval rating.
The state legislature, controlled by Republicans, fares even worse. Only 31.3 percent of North Carolinians gave a nod of approval to the job their senators and representatives are doing. The state’s two Republican U.S. Senators, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, also only received the approval of 28 (Tillis) and 29 (Burr) percent of those polled. Burr is up for re-election this November as well.
When asked about HB2, voters’ response was far from a ringing endorsement, with just over 49 percent saying that the state should ban local ordinances such as the one in Charlotte that the law overturned. Thirty-nine percent thought that local communities should be able to pass such ordinances, and 11 percent were unsure.
But the biggest news that came out of the poll was that the Democratic presidential candidates, perhaps due in part to the unpopularity of state Republicans, have an excellent chance to put North Carolina in the blue column again. In match-ups between the Democratic candidates and the two front-running Republicans, the GOP candidate comes out on top only one time — Ted Cruz beats Hillary Clinton by a narrow margin. The poll gives Clinton a 45.1-38.9 percent lead over Trump. Bernie Sanders beats both Trump and Cruz by even wider margins than Clinton.
And who was the one national politician who got the highest approval rating in the state? That would be President Barack Obama. Forty-three percent of respondents said that they approve of the job the president is doing, tying him with AG Cooper’s approval rating. When Democrats and independents who lean towards Democrats were asked who they would like to see running for president, President Obama was the choice of almost 10 percent, even though he is term-limited and can’t serve as president again.
The poll also revealed a number of issues where North Carolinians are not nearly as conservative as some observers might think. More residents approve of gay marriage than disapprove. On the topic of gun control, 38 percent said the state needs stricter laws, with another 42 percent saying to leave the laws as they are. Only 14 percent thought those laws should be less strict. And almost 90 percent of respondents said that the minimum wage should be raised. The poll shows that either majorities or large pluralities of North Carolinians are quite liberal on a wide range of other issues as well.
North Carolina is one of those “near south” states that appears to be in transition from “red” to “blue,” following in the footsteps of its immediate neighbor to the north, Virginia. This poll indicates that the policies of Republicans may push the state into the Democratic column this year, giving either Hillary or Bernie an unexpected boost, along with an extra 15 electoral votes, and making it even harder for Republicans to reclaim the White House.
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