It was no secret last year that candidate Bev Perdue had a “Charlotte problem" in her race for governor. Despite running even or slightly ahead statewide, she trailed badly in the polls against Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory in the region. That is much to be expected given McCrory’s history and publicity as a popular leader in the largest media market in the state. When the votes were counted, Perdue lost the region, but surprisingly won Mecklenburg County, no doubt through the success of the Obama’s turnout machine.
Often during the campaign, her numbers were so bad that she thought the area was uncompetitive and chose not to run television ads on Charlotte stations. Ever since, Perdue has attempted to construct an identity in the Charlotte region. Early in her administration she pledged to open an office in Charlotte and would actually work out of that office at least two days per month. She made high profile visits to meet with banking leaders and announced a new economic development initiative (although that program is with an organization whose President is a self-described “bank terrorist”).
Charlotte Chamber of Commerce President Bob Morgan fawned over Perdue in an April interview: "It’s very reminiscent of Gov. (Jim) Hunt, who was very present here. She obviously has even taken it another level with the physical presence of her office, with the regular outreach she and her staff are making to Charlotte."
Perdue seems to be taking great steps to attempt to rectify her “Charlotte problem.” Unfortunately for her, the polling numbers do not seem to be moving in her direction. In nearly every question we asked on Perdue in our July poll, her numbers in the Charlotte region (for our polling purposes, the 704 area code) were lower than her numbers in other regions and lower than her numbers statewide.
Statewide, Perdue’s favorability rating was 30 percent favorable, 44 percent unfavorable (-14 percentage points). But in the Charlotte region, her favorability was nine points lower at 25/48, a negative 23 favorability rating.
On her electability, the percentage of voters saying they would definitely vote to re-elect Perdue was also four points lower in Charlotte (22 percent) versus the statewide level (26 percent).
In our final poll before the election last fall, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory was beating Perdue 54-40 in the Charlotte region. In a hypothetical rematch, our latest poll shows that McCrory would improve upon that margin and now leads 56-31. Perdue’s support in the Charlotte reading has dropped nine points in a matchup versus McCrory.
Perdue’s proposed tax plan raises $1.6 billion by increasing the state sales tax 1 cent, drawing lower support in Charlotte than statewide. Overall support of the tax plan was 21% support, 69% oppose statewide. In Charlotte it was 18/74.
Specifically, support for her proposal of a sales tax increase drops by 14 percentage points and support for her tax on services declines by 12 percentage points.
Perhaps the most telling example of her weakness in the Charlotte area may be evident in the question of whether to recall Governor Perdue from office. Only 35 percent of voters statewide support taking such a drastic action, with 48 percent of voters saying no. But in the Charlotte region, recalling the governor is actually supported by a slim margin, 41 percent to 39 percent.
Despite reports to the contrary, Perdue’s “Charlotte problem” remains in full effect and in fact, may be worsening. Broken promises of the completion of I-485, raising taxes in a recession and issuing a pay cut to state employees and teachers have driven her numbers lower. With the Charlotte media market comprising more voters than any other media market in the state, Perdue must begin to improve these numbers if she is to have a turnaround statewide.
Chris Hayes is a Senior Legislative and Polling Analyst at the Civitas Institute.