Public opinion among North Carolina voters in the last week of October could translate into more Democratic victories on Election Day.
“It could be a good year for Democrats,” said David McLennan, director of the Meredith Poll. “It doesn’t mean they’ll take back the state legislature or even flip a lot of seats in North Carolina’s congressional delegation, but they could have some pickups.”
Democrats are running a candidate in every state legislative race for the first time in recorded history. Their aim is to break the Republican supermajority in the General Assembly, which has overridden 20 vetoes from Governor Cooper in the last two years. To do this, Democrats need to elect four candidates to the state House or six candidates to the state Senate.
The latest Meredith Poll findings indicate voter enthusiasm is higher-than-usual for a midterm elections year, more voters favor Democratic candidates over Republicans for state and congressional office and more voters report feeling dissatisfied than satisfied with the direction of the state and country. All of these factors could benefit Democrats, McLennan said.
“If Democrats, with the ‘get out the vote’ campaign, do turn out their voters in ways the poll indicates they are inclined to do, it could be a period in which we see the Democrats pick up the seats they need to break the supermajority and perhaps pick off a congressional seat or two.”
Respondents were randomly selected from voter registration data and interviewed by telephone and email between Oct. 21 and Oct. 25. Meredith College students and faculty collected and analyzed the survey data, which included responses from 725 voters. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
More than 70 percent of North Carolina voters surveyed responded they were almost certain to vote in this year’s midterm elections. That’s about 8-10 points higher than the polling indicated in the last two midterm election years, McLennan said.
“Polls like mine, but also early voting, would indicate that we’re going to have a pretty good turnout in the midterm elections overall,” McLennan said. “We could be getting into the upper 40s – about 50 percent – of all registered voters.”
He thinks this increased voter enthusiasm is partly due to Washington politics, McLennan said. “In particular, the discussions about the need for Democrats to take back at least one or two chambers of Congress,” McLennan said. “People perceive the stakes to be pretty high.”
North Carolina’s 2nd, 9th and 13th Congressional Districts are considered competitive, McLennan said. More voters interviewed in the Meredith Poll say they’d choose a Democratic congressional candidate over a Republican – 48.8 percent to 38 percent. “If this enthusiasm gap and also favorability gap continues through Election Day, that could mean Democrats could pick up one, two, perhaps all three seats,” McLennan said.
The same 10 point margin exists between voters who say they’d choose a Democrat in state legislative races and those who say they’d choose a Republican candidate. McLennan says this could be due to controversial decisions that have come out of the General Assembly since the Republicans have held power.
“HB 2 is an issue from a couple of years ago, but people recall that particular issue,” McLennan said. “They’ve read stories about how North Carolina’s education system is ranked pretty low nationally in terms of teacher pay.”
Voters surveyed reported higher rates of dissatisfaction than satisfaction with the direction of the country and the state. Fifty three percent of voters interviewed say they’re dissatisfied with where the country is headed. And 48 percent say they’re dissatisfied with the state, while 40 percent say they’re satisfied. This dissatisfaction could help Democrats, McLennan said.
“The party in power tends to pay the price."
Election Day polls are open until 7:30 p.m.