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WRAL News poll: Voters give GOP-led legislature thumbs down

Posted March 21, 2012 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated March 21, 2012 8:04 p.m. EDT

— Republicans won control of the North Carolina General Assembly in 2010 for the first time in more than a century, but voters don't think they're doing a good job in charge, according to a new WRAL News poll.

SurveyUSA polled 1,703 registered voters last Friday through Tuesday and found that state lawmakers have a 22 percent approval rating. Fifty-four percent disapprove of the job the legislature is doing, while 24 percent aren't sure whether they like the way the General Assembly is operating or not.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

Lawmakers were so universally panned in the poll that even 51 percent of registered Republicans disapprove of the GOP-led legislature, according to the poll. That's almost equal to the 58 percent of Democrats and independents who disapprove.

The approval rating among men is 26 percent, while its 19 percent among women. Black voters, who traditionally favor Democrats, gave the General Assembly a higher approval rating than whites, at 26 percent versus 21 percent.

Although older voters usually trend more conservative, they are apparently more dissatisfied with lawmakers than younger ones, according to the poll. The approval rating dropped from 26 percent among 18- to 34-year-olds to 19 percent among those 65 and older.

About half of those who identify themselves as conservative disapprove of the General Assembly's job performance, compared with more than two-thirds of those calling themselves liberal. Fifty-three percent of moderates disapprove, as do 47 percent of voters in the tea party movement.

Democratic consultant Brad Crone said the poll show voters are frustrated with both parties. He said he thinks Republican lawmakers are alienating moderate voters, especially on education.

"Clearly, the Republicans have a huge problem connecting with voters on education policies in the state. We're seeing it in the gubernatorial race. You're seeing it in legislative races," Crone said.

North Carolina State University political science professor Andrew Taylor said most people statewide don't really follow the General Assembly, so it's hard to say if the poll is an indictment of policy choices.

"More of this has to do with the fact that people are just disgruntled, period," Taylor said. "They are worried about the economy, they are insecure about their future and who's to blame? Well, any governmental institution."

He said he doesn't see the kind of voter dissatisfaction this year that he saw in 2010, so he expects Republicans will keep control of the legislature this fall.

Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, said he doesn't think the poll has much to do with issues.

"You're asking a question about a faceless group of legislators – 'the General Assembly,' which is government – and the first thing people think about government is bad," Rucho said.

A lot of voters don't realize how much GOP leaders have accomplished, he said.

"We've done some great things," he said. "Once they're aware of this, I think the 22 percent will probably go up."