Elon, N.C. — While President Barack Obama, Gov. Pat McCrory and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr all saw slight improvements in voters' rating of their job performance in the latest Elon University Poll, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan continued a year-long slide.
Elon pollsters surveyed 925 registered voters statewide Feb. 23-26 and also found that, despite national trends, a majority of North Carolinians still oppose gay marriage and legalized marijuana. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.22 percentage points.
Forty-nine percent of respondents disapprove of Hagan's job performance, while 33 percent gave her a thumbs-up, according to the poll. It is her lowest approval number in the past year and includes erosion among registered Democrats – down from 63 percent in November to 55 percent – and women – from 40 percent in November to 33 percent.
"Kay Hagan’s slight drop in approval rating would not necessarily be a concern by itself. However, this is the fourth straight fall in a year, and this last decline occurred when many elected counterparts saw increases in approval ratings," Jason Husser, assistant director of the Elon University Poll, said in a statement. "The trend suggests the senator will face a tougher-than-expected re-election battle this November.”
Hagan has been hammered in recent months by Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that has aired television ads criticizing her support of the Affordable Care Act. Fifty-two percent of respondents in Elon's latest poll said they thought the federal law would make health care worse in the U.S., compared with 30 percent who said it would improve care.
Eight Republicans are vying for the chance to face Hagan in November. State House Speaker Thom Tillis is seen by most observers as the leading candidate, but 59 percent of those surveyed by Elon still don't recognize his name. Of those familiar with Tillis, only 18 percent have a favorable opinion of him. Thirty-four percent have a negative opinion, and the rest don't feel strongly one way or the other.
Outside of Hagan, top political figures fared slightly better in voters' eyes.
Obama's approval rating rose from 37 percent in November to 39 percent, while McCrory's went from 33 percent to 36 percent. Burr, who isn't up for re-election this year, has the same 33 percent approval rating as Hagan, but the numbers who disapprove of his job performance is much lower, at 32 percent.
On issues that Elon surveyed, 51 percent of respondents said they oppose gay marriage, and a similar number are against legalizing marijuana use in North Carolina.
“Trends in various national public opinion polls seem to suggest growing support for gay marriage. Our recent survey seems to suggest the opposite dynamic in North Carolina. Opposition to same-sex marriage has increased slightly since last September,” Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon University Poll, said in a statement.