@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

WRAL News poll: Voters back bonds, want action on Charlotte transgender ordinance

Posted March 8, 2016 10:00 p.m. EST

Restroom, bathroom

— If lawmakers decide to hold a special session to overturn Charlotte's transgender nondiscrimination ordinance, they'll have the backing of voters like Brenda Taylor.

"I cannot even believe this is happening in America," said Taylor, 65, who is retired and lives in Knightdale. "God either made you male, or he made you female. No sir, I don't want to go into a bathroom with a so-called transgendered person."

She is among the 36 percent of respondents to a recent WRAL News poll who said that the General Assembly should act to overturn Charlotte's ordinance. Another 30 percent said lawmakers should let voters in Charlotte decide by declaring a Mecklenburg County referendum on the issue. Only 27 percent of those surveyed said legislators should leave the ordinance alone, with 8 percent saying they were unsure.

SurveyUSA polled 2,000 adults, of whom 1,800 are registered voters and 1,555 were identified as likely primary voters. The survey took place over four days and had an overall margin of sampling error of 2.2 to 2.5 percentage points, depending on the question.

The new ordinance seeks to prohibit discrimination against transgendered people in a number of instances, but the section of the law that has garnered the most attention allows transgendered people to use the bathroom in which they feel most comfortable. It goes into effect April 1, which is more than three weeks before lawmakers are scheduled to return on April 25 for their regularly scheduled session.

House Speaker Tim Moore said last week that more than three-fifths of House lawmakers were ready to return to Raleigh early, most likely between the March 15 primary and April 1, to act against the ordinance. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said Tuesday he has appointed a "working group" to draft legislation on the issue. He blames Attorney General Roy Cooper for not acting to overturn the law. Cooper has said state government has more pressing matters to deal with.

"Cooper has admitted state laws trump local ordinances, and he is the one person with the power to stop this nonsense and enforce our state’s criminal laws," Berger, R-Rockingham, said. "But if he refuses to do his job and protect the safety and privacy of our children, then the Senate stands ready to return to session and resolve this issue quickly."

That stance will be especially popular with Republicans and those voters who consider themselves "very conservative." Only 15 percent of Republican voters told the WRAL News poll that lawmakers should do nothing, and more than half who identify as "strong Republicans" said the General Assembly should act to override.

Bond appears on track to pass

Only 28 percent of those surveyed said they approve of the job that the General Assembly was doing overall. That is not an uncommon finding among recently conducted North Carolina polls, which have found the legislature to be an unpopular institution.

In this survey, 44 percent of those who said they were "strong Republicans" approve of the job the legislature was doing versus 39 disapproving. Among all other ideological categories, more respondents disapprove than approve of the GOP-controlled legislature.

The poll asked about several questions that have been issues lawmakers have dealt with over the last two years. For example, it found that 50 percent of adults surveyed believe the state should rely on an independent redistricting commission to redraw congressional and state legislative districts. Currently, state lawmakers draw the lines in which they and federal lawmakers run. And 66 percent of those surveyed said funding for public schools is currently inadequate.

Those surveyed were statistically deadlocked over changes to the state tax system that put sales tax on more items in favor of lowering the income tax rate. Although 41 percent said they opposed the shift versus 37 percent who said they approved, those numbers are not quite outside the margin of sampling error. One in five of those surveyed said they were unsure about the tax changes.

Meanwhile, voters appear to be likely to support the $2 billion bond question on the March 15 ballot, although with a week to go before the primary, 27 percent of voters said they haven't completely made up their mind. More than half of the bond will pay for new buildings in the University of North Carolina system, with another chunk going toward new construction for community college campuses. Money from the bond will also support state parks and National Guard armories.

"Taxes are just going to go higher and higher to maintain whatever they build with the bond," said Linda Chandler, who lives and works on a small farm in Harnett County. "I think we are being taxed to death. ... There are existing buildings there that are not being used that could be renovated."

Chandler is among the 18 percent of those surveyed who said they would oppose the bond on March 15. Voters who identified themselves as strongly conservative or strongly Republican were more likely to oppose the bond, while voters who either leaned Democratic or identified themselves as Democrats were most likely to say they would back the bond issue.

"We're taking nothing for granted," said Chris Sinclair, a Republican strategist hired by the pro-bond committee.

Despite the relatively strong showing in the poll, Sinclair said, the committee was continuing to advertise and wrangle voters through phone calls and other individual contact.

The GOP primary for president is ginning up high levels of turnout. Despite many of those Republican voters being less likely to support the bond, Sinclair said there was reason for optimism on his side.

"Are Republicans the only ones who are going to show up to vote?" Sinclair asked. "It's not a sure thing. This election never has been. But at the end of the day, it would be hard for the 'nos' to make up ground."