North Carolinians, like many in the nation, are more polarized than ever, according to the results of the newest Meredith Poll, conducted in mid-October.
The poll reveals strong lines of division between Democrats and Republicans, Black and non-Black voters, and young and old voters, a Meredith College report stated.
“North Carolinians are extremely polarized and very pessimistic about the polarization getting much better,” said Meredith Poll Director David McLennan. “Even though Joe Biden ran for the presidency on promises that he could bring the country back together, this task may be virtually impossible for one person.”
Most voters agree that politics is becoming more partisan, with a significant number of Democrats (23.1 percent) and Republicans (17.6 percent) saying their own party is the most extreme, according to the poll. A plurality of unaffiliated voters, more than 36 percent, feel that both parties are too extreme.
As the two major political parties try to one-up each other in social and financial policy, many poll respondents, 40 percent, said they were “ideologically moderate.” It’s no surprise, then that 60 percent of North Carolinians believe the two major parties “do a poor job of representing citizens and that a viable third party would improve politics,” the report stated.
“North Carolinians’ desire for a third party alternative is primarily a reflection of their dissatisfaction with the two major parties who seem to cater to the extreme elements in their respective parties,” said McLennan.
Less than 30 percent of North Carolinians who responded to the poll are satisfied with the direction of the country, the report stated. Those who are unsatisfied are mostly Republicans and unaffiliated voters, non-Black voters, and voters over the age of 40. Democrats, Black voters, and younger voters are mostly satisfied with the direction of the country.
“President Joe Biden is slightly underwater with his approval in North Carolina (47.8 approve v. 48.1 disapprove),” the report stated. “The partisan divide is predictable with 87.4 percent of Democrats approving of the job that Joe Biden is doing as president, while 85.9 percent of Republicans disapprove.”
One important change, however, is that less than one-third of Democrats strongly approve of the job Biden is doing, while just under 70 percent of Republicans strongly disapprove.
“Joe Biden’s approval numbers in North Carolina reflect the challenges his administration is dealing with the Delta surge in COVID infections, inflation that hurts everyone’s spending power, problems at the southern border, and other headwinds,” said McLennan. “However, in today’s hyper-polarized environment, having almost the same number of people approve and disapprove of a president’s job performance is to be expected.”
North Carolinians are more optimistic about state politics. Under 40 percent of respondents are satisfied with the direction of North Carolina, the report stated. Just over 60 percent of Democrats are satisfied, while less than 30 percent of Republicans and unaffiliated voters are satisfied.
North Carolinians are more united when it comes to the work of the Republican legislature and Gov. Roy Cooper. Although there is still a partisan divide, Cooper has relatively strong approval ratings—82 percent of Democrats and 59.9 percent of unaffiliated voters approve of Cooper.
Although 69.4 percent of Republicans disapprove of Cooper, “their intensity in their disapproval is not as strong as it is for President Biden, with under one-third of all Republicans strongly disapproving of Cooper’s performance as governor,” the report stated.
Despite Biden’s poor approval rating in North Carolina, many of his policies are popular among voters. Infrastructure issues like improving the electric grid, modernizing water systems, and constructing new roads and bridges were ranked as critical or important to the country’s future by at least half of the respondents.
Republicans and Democrats are generally in agreement on the importance of such issues. Divisions only appeared when pollsters asked about other issues like universal pre-K, paid family leave, and free community college.
Critical Race Theory
Despite the fiery rhetoric around “critical race theory”—words that have become a trigger for partisan name-calling—more than 75 percent of North Carolinians think the history of slavery, women’s suffrage, and the Civil Rights Movement should be taught in public schools.
The poll found that only 34.5 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement that social studies was being taught fairly in state schools, while 32.1 percent disagreed.
The Meredith poll makes clear that few people know what Critical Race Theory actually is and mostly use the concept as a proxy for the ongoing debate about how to address racism and white supremacy in a former Confederate state. Overall, people think children should be aware of our nation’s dark history and think critically about social issues.
Ultimately, results from the poll are mixed. Perhaps the feeling of increased partisanship is simply an illusion created by officials and politicos trying to win the next election. When pollsters dove beneath recognizable names, labels, and headlines, North Carolinians agreed on some key issues.
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