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WRAL News poll: McCrory approval drags just before 2016 cycle begins

Posted October 21, 2014 5:00 p.m. EDT

— Only about a third of registered voters say they approve of the job that Gov. Pat McCrory is doing, according to an exclusive WRAL News poll conducted by Survey USA that was released Tuesday.

McCrory's numbers are little changed from March, although fewer respondents said they disapproved of the job he was doing this week than in March. Still 46 percent of voters said they disapproved of the governor's job performance. 

Although the 2014 elections are not yet over, McCrory has already been subject of periodic attack ads from environmental groups that have criticized his handling of the coal ash issue in North Carolina. With Democrats lining up to run against him, most notably Attorney General Roy Cooper, McCrory faces an early start to the 2016 election cycle. 

He is most popular in the Charlotte area, where 43 percent of voters say they approve of his work, compared with 31 percent in the Raleigh market and 34 percent in the Triad area. 

Carter Wrenn, a long-time Republican strategist who once advised U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, said McCrory's low approval numbers partially reflect how polarized Democrats and Republicans are right now. 

Going into the campaign, Wrenn said, "The first question for McCrory is whether it's possible to get his unfavorable (numbers) down."


McCrory approval

Voters were asked if they approved or disapproved of Gov. Pat McCrory's job performance. The October poll surveyed 691 registered voters and has a margin of sampling error of +/-3.8 percentage points.

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Wrenn said that more than low approval numbers, high disapproval numbers are a concern for a candidate getting ready to seek re-election.

"At a certain point, disapproval rates can turn to stone," Wrenn said. 

McCrory is in good company. North Carolina voters give low marks to House Speaker Thom Tillis, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and President Barack Obama as well. The North Carolina General Assembly scores particularly low, with only 23 percent of voters approving of the legislature's job performance and 53 percent disapproving.

But Mac McCorkle, a professor at the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy and former adviser to Democratic Govs. Mike Easley and Bev Perdue, said it's not enough for McCrory merely to look good in comparison to the legislature. 

"That's not helpful, because he's supposed to be the leader," McCorkle said. "Given there's no indication the economy isn't coming back in a big way, he really needs to impress upon the electorate that he's got some leadership qualities."

McCrory, he said, needs to show that he can chart his own political course away from the unpopular General Assembly.

"It's getting dangerous for him in terms of whether people believe he's a serious character or not," McCorkle said, saying that McCrory has bounced from topic to topic without driving home any one particular agenda item. "That's not a liberal or a conservative comment. I would say the same thing about a liberal in his situation."