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WRAL News Poll: Easley's favorable ratings go down

Public opinions about state government's efficiency and the taxpayer cost of overseas trips have cost Gov. Mike Easley's popularity, a political science professor says.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — As Gov. Mike Easley's second term winds down, so are his favorable poll numbers, according to a WRAL News poll.

Seven percent of respondents said that Easley is doing an excellent job, according to a survey of 700 likely voters conducted on Wednesday by the polling firm Rasmussen Reports. Twenty-five percent rated his performance as good.

However, 38 percent gave a "fair" rating to Easley, who is barred by law from seeking a third term. Twenty-seven percent said the governor has been doing a poor job.

The poll has a margin of error of 4.5 points.

"The buck stops with him," said David McClennan, a political science professor at Peace College.

The numbers represent a significant drop for Easley: In an October 2007 poll, 47 percent of participants told Rasmussen Reports that Easley was doing an excellent or good job. A third gave him a fair rating, while 19 percent thought his performance was poor.

Easley's numbers could be down partly due to public perceptions that state government is not operating as efficiently as it could, McClennan said.

For example, state Department of Transportation leaders recently announced what they called a significant reorganization of the agency – after an 18-month internal review and $3.6 million review by an independent consultant called it inefficient, poorly managed and too political.

"There are a lot of little things, but nothing directly pointing at him saying he's doing a terrible job," McClennan said.

Public-relations problems have also played a role in dimming Easley's poll numbers, the political analyst said.

Easley got drubbed for his and First Lady Mary Easley's taking overseas recruiting and cultural exchange trips that cost more than $100,000. There also was an 88 percent raise Mary Easley received from North Carolina State University.

"These kinds of things have gotten repeated play," McClennan said.

McClennan credited Easley for helping education by initiating expanded pre-school programs, raising teacher pay and ensuring funding during tough budget times.

"I would say (Easley is) a good, solid, two-term governor, nothing spectacular but nothing North Carolinians shouldn't be proud of," McClennan said.

North Carolina voters will chose either Democratic Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue or Republican Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory as Easley's successor in less than 90 days.

WRAL News contacted the governor's press office for comment, but a spokesperson had not responded by late Friday night.