WRAL News poll: HB2 could have impact on fall campaigns

Posted April 12, 2016
Updated April 13, 2016

— The conflict over House Bill 2, the recently passed measure setting statewide discrimination standards, could reverberate into the fall general election, likely voters told a WRAL News poll.

Conducted by SurveyUSA exclusively for WRAL News, the poll found Republican Gov. Pat McCrory trailing Democratic challenger Roy Cooper 43 percent to 47 percent, with more than two-thirds of voters saying that a politician's position on the bill will either "strongly" or "somewhat" influence their votes.

"Probably the past two weeks have taken a toll on McCrory, and he needs to hope for a short 'short' legislative session this summer so he can get into the summer and re-balance the political equation," said Michael Bitzer, a professor of political science at Catawba College.

McCrory has defended the bill after signing it only hours after it passed the General Assembly on March 23. Cooper has labeled the bill "a disgrace" and refused to defend it in court.

"For both McCrory and Cooper, it's a dynamic that probably both of them want to go away, except that it seems to energize their respective bases," Bitzer said.

Both of the candidates have used House Bill 2 to raise money and have been regularly communicating with supporters about the bill.

Results of WRAL News poll on House Bill 2

The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points, meaning that Cooper and McCrory are still in a statistical tie. However, the result is the reverse of a finding by liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling, which found McCrory leading Cooper by 2 percentage points just before lawmakers passed House Bill 2.

The WRAL News poll reflects a "significant" gender gap, Bitzer said, with Cooper leading McCrory among women 50 percent to 38 percent.

It's unclear whether House Bill 2 played a role in Cooper's overall lead on McCrory. The numbers of voters who said they approve or disapprove of McCrory's job performance did not move significantly between a WRAL News poll released just before the March 15 primary and this week's survey. However, Cooper's approval rating climbed 18 points during the same time period.

Similarly, only 30 percent of respondents said they approve of the job the North Carolina General Assembly is doing, with 51 percent disapproving. Those numbers are about the same as a month ago.

Of respondents likely to cast ballots in November, 58 percent said a candidate's position on House Bill 2 would strongly influence his or her vote, while another 24 percent said a candidate's position would somewhat influence his or her vote. Only 14 percent said the bill would have no impact. Voters who identified themselves as strongly liberal or conservative were more likely to report that the measure would have a strong impact on their votes.

Results of WRAL News poll on House Bill 2

"It's one of those cultural issues that can get legs," said Carter Wrenn, a veteran Republican political consultant. "It has landed in politics where it has gotten plenty muddied up, but it's a cultural issue."

Wrenn said it was typical for partisans to feel more strongly about an issue like House Bill 2. But 56 percent of voters who identified themselves as truly independent – leaning neither Republican nor Democratic – said it would also be on their minds when they go to the polls.

Gary Pearce, a longtime Democratic consultant, pointed out that the law has dominated newspaper headlines and local television news and has even been featured on national news programs.

"Here's the one thing that is different right now – there's an enormous amount of coverage. It dominates anything else in North Carolina politics. The question is, will that continue?" Pearce said.

If the intensity of news coverage slackens, he said, so will electoral passions with regard to the bill.


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  • Carl Keehn Apr 14, 2016
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    How does denying a local jurisdiction, the right to establish a minimum wage that meets the need of the local area, or denying the right of a person to file suit for discrimination in a local court; protect the safety of your children and grandchildren?

  • Christian Knott Apr 13, 2016
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    if you don't like left leaning websites, you are more than welcome to click the x and go somewhere you feel more comfortable.

  • Fanny Chmelar Apr 13, 2016
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    HB2 doesn't address the safety of women and children from predators.

    Think those gun laws have been keeping guns out of criminal's hands?

    I will not vote for anyone who disregards the Constitution to oppress citizen's rights. Including the ones you just had taken away from you. You're welcome!

  • Eric Hammond Apr 13, 2016
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    then realize this - HB2 actually ENDANGERS little boys who have to use the restroom ALONE unless their father or an older brother is present to help them! Why not go ahead and pass a law stating that women with children are not allowed to go to any public place with her children unaccompanied by an adult male family member?
    Now THAT is scary! sounds an awful lot like something straight out of Sharia law doesn't it?
    This bill is 100% proof positive that the GOP in NC is no longer "conservative" - they ARE in fact right-wing radicals who are anti - Constitution, anti - bill of rights (unless you happen to be a company, which ironically are not granted one single right by either, and nor are companies mentioned as having the inalienable human rights as mentioned by the Declaration of Independence)

  • Larry Rieke Apr 13, 2016
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    This issue will "strongly" affect my vote. I will not vote for anyone who does not support the safety of my children and grandchildren. Period.

  • Melanie Lane Apr 13, 2016
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    the fall election is exactly why ALEC is rolling these laws out across the south. They know the Republican Presidential candidates are killing their chances to win so they are dredging up a non issue to get their base riled up. Even if the poll is generally right, they think it's going to decrease the bloodbath they would face without giving their base a reason to show up. Luckily their base won't think twice about following the lead they're given. But the more the base follows the more the party falls apart, they're on the wrong side of history.

  • Russell Chapman Apr 13, 2016
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    If this isn't a story, it's because everyone knows that this bill will have a major impact on the election.

  • Byron Jones Apr 13, 2016
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    The SurveyUSA poll was a lowsy 700 respondents. Probably all from the same neighborhood. What a lazy load of carp. It must have taken them about 20 minutes.........If leftwing WRAL had any real LGBT cajones , they would post an online poll.............Oops! I bet they wouldn't like the results..........Way to make a news story out of nothing again WRAL!