Raleigh, N.C. — Despite being arguably the two most powerful political figures in the state – and potential U.S. Senate candidates – House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger are not well known among voters surveyed by the Elon University Poll.
Roughly one-third of 683 registered voters said they had heard of either figure. That's not good for the Republicans hoping to challenge Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in a race that will be the only statewide contest on the ballot in 2014. Name identification is crucial for both raising money and gathering grass roots support.
Of those that recognized the two legislative leaders' names, only 22 percent had a favorable impression of Tillis and only 33 percent had a favorable impression of Berger. A plurality of voters said their impression were neither favorable nor negative.
That's pretty thin political gruel for two men who have been at the center of the state's political maelstrom over the past three years.
"Journalists, political scientists, people who are in the field are just so shocked when voters don't recognize the names," said Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon University Poll. "It really isn't that surprising."
Respondents, he said, may have had better recognition if the poll questions had included Berger's and Tillis' titles, he said, but those are not how names are listed on the ballot.
"We're just so far off from the primary," he said. "These numbers are going to dramatically change as the media focuses on the candidates rather than the issues."
For context, 38 percent of respondents said they approved of the job Hagan was doing, while 35 percent said they disapproved and 26 percent didn't have an opinion.
"Her numbers are flat," Fernandez said, saying that Hagan's favorable versus unfavorable numbers won't begin to move until sometime next year.