- Democratic advantages in recent Civitas Poll generic ballot questions do not translate to more progressive policy positions of NC voters.
- The results seem to reflect voters’ frustration with incumbent Republicans more than actual support for progressive policies.
- Conservative candidates should resist the temptation to move Left in their policy positions, instead sticking to conservative values.
The most recent Civitas Poll showed Democrats to have an advantage going into this November’s federal and state elections. These results show Democrats pulling ahead in generic ballot questions when compared to past Civitas Polls, which have showed near ties or narrow Democrat leads. Does increasing voter support for Democrats on the generic ballot indicate an electoral shift toward the Left? A closer look at the poll results reveals why that is unlikely.
Democrats enjoyed a 6-point lead on the generic ballot question for state legislative races and a 7-point lead on the generic Congressional ballot question in the September Civitas Poll. Each result is well within the 4.4-point margin of error. One interpretation is that North Carolina voters are growing more open to or supportive of Leftist ideas. Voter ideological distribution and sentiment on specific policy proposals from the same poll, however, cast substantial doubt on that interpretation.
North Carolina tends to lean right-of-center. When asked about their ideology, 45 percent of respondents identified as somewhat or very conservative. This is a significant stronghold compared to only 24 percent that identify as somewhat or very liberal. Twenty-seven percent identify as moderate. Conservatives have comprised a plurality of North Carolina voters in the last three Civitas Polls.
The September Civitas Poll asked voters their opinion on two of the six constitutional amendments that will be included on the November ballot. The constitutional amendment to require a photo identification to vote enjoyed 65 percent support with 32 percent opposition. Lowering the state’s income tax cap to 7 percent was supported by 60 percent of respondents with only 22 percent opposition.
When asked about the United State Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, also known as ICE, only 20 percent of voters supported abolishing it. In contrast, 67 percent opposed abolishing ICE.
Respondents were also asked their view on the vandalism of the Silent Sam Confederate statue on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill. Seventy percent of voters opposed the vandalism, compared to 22 percent who supported it. When asked about the removal of Confederate monuments more generally, 50 percent opposed removal and 30 percent supported it.
The mismatch between voter’s policy preferences and political party choices is significant. It should be a wakeup call for Republicans if they hope to remain North Carolina’s conservative party. If Republican-proposed policies are popular with voters, why is there a disconnect with how voters intend to vote in this November’s elections?
The recent and predicted electoral success of North Carolina Democrats may have more to do with voters’ frustration with incumbent Republicans than actual support for liberal policies. North Carolina saw this play out in 2016 when Democratic challenger Roy Cooper beat incumbent Republican Governor Pay McCrory, despite Republican President Donald Trump winning the state.
Incumbents from either party face a negative stigma associated with being a “politician” or “part of the establishment.” Republicans have maintained legislative majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly since 2010 and currently enjoy majorities in the US Senate and House. This election cycle, they will have to overcome the establishment stereotype if they hope to win competitive races.
At the September Civitas Poll Lunch, Civitas President Donald Bryson pointed to an interesting trend in the poll data. The General Assembly’s favorability ranking tends to be negatively correlated with the amount of time that they spend in session. This is likely tied to negative media coverage. Republicans in particular tend to face harsher scrutiny from left-leaning media outlets. Republican leadership at the state and federal levels each have their own problems with scandals or lack of action on campaign promises. These behaviors play into the “career politician” images that may be hurting Republican incumbents going into this year’s election.
There have been calls by the Left at the national level to shift the ideological “center” substantially to the Left. Civitas Poll results suggest that North Carolina voters do not seem to be receptive to such an idea, at least when gauging how receptive respondents are to specific policy proposals. Such results give both hope and guidance to conservative lawmakers and candidates this November. Voters support a conservative policy platform, but they have demonstrated a willingness to hold lawmakers accountable, as well.