Raleigh, N.C. — Two recent polls by Public Policy Polling and Elon University offer very similar findings: Gov. Pat McCrory is still relatively popular with North Carolinians, but his fellow Republicans at the General Assembly, and some of their more attention-grabbing legislative proposals, are not.
"McCrory's approval rating is a +13 spread this month, with 49 percent of voters approving and 36 percent disapproving of his performance. His numbers have been very consistent over the last three months – +14 in February, +14 in March and now +13," PPP reported Monday.
Elon put McCrory at +21, with 46 percent of those surveyed approving of the job he was doing and only 25 percent disapproving.
Lawmakers did not fare as well. In the Elon poll, "Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed said they approve of the state legislature’s job performance, up four points from the previous Elon University Poll, while almost 39 percent said they disapprove."
PPP offered a similar finding.
"Republican legislators have a 34/53 favorability rating, and the General Assembly as a whole has just a 20 percent approval, with 56 percent of voters disapproving of it," reports PPP.
For those who don't know, PPP generally does paid work for Democratic clients. Elon University runs a well-respected academic poll that focuses on North Carolina and the South.
Both Elon and PPP asked respondents about a series of legislative proposals that have grabbed headlines over the past two months, finding that many are deeply unpopular with voters. While neither poll claims to show cause and effect, it's not unreasonable to say that, if voters don't favor the policies lawmakers are putting forward, they are not going to like those particular lawmakers.
The data in the April 17 Elon poll release found 69 percent of those surveyed disapproved of a bill that would make it harder to get divorced, and 74 percent said they opposed a measure to allow some motorcycle riders to not wear a helmet.
In the PPP poll, only 25 percent of those surveyed approved of a bill that imposed a tax penalty on the parents of students who register to vote at college, and just 33 percent approve of trimming the early voting period from 17 to 10 days. Only 22 percent approved of plans to cut the state's requirement that power companies buy a certain percentage of power from renewable energy companies.
"The only high-profile Republican initiative we polled that has much traction with voters is the one to make Christianity the official state religion," PPP reported, with 42 percent in support and 45 percent opposed.
To be fair, the proposal didn't so much declare a state religion as it did state the sense of the House that it could ignore 200 years of court rulings and declare an official religion if it wanted to do so.
"What these numbers show is that, while North Carolina has been getting a lot of national media attention of late for some of the unusual bills being proposed in its legislature, very few of these ideas have much traction with the public," writes PPP's polling director, Tom Jensen.
To make sure I wasn't making an unwise leap across the correlation-causality Rubicon, I gave Jensen a call to see if I was making too big of a leap from unpopular bills to unpopular legislators. Jensen agreed that the connection makes sense.
"It stands to reason that, if everything you're putting forward – or almost everything – that's getting a lot of attention is unpopular, you're going to be unpopular too," Jensen said.