Meredith poll examines voter preferences in hot-button issues at 2022 Midterms approach
Published September 29, 2022
The most recent Meredith Poll, in the field September 20-23, 2022, asked North Carolina voters their opinions on a variety of hot-button issues as the 2022 midterms approach.
Along with preferences on senate candidates and approval of the president, governor, and the Supreme Court, the poll covered voter satisfaction with the direction of the country and the state, reaction to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, and preferences on possible state legislation on abortion, and federal legislation protection same-sex marriage and access to contraception. The poll also examined voter views on democracy and political violence.
There is a great deal of enthusiasm for voting in the 2022 Midterm Elections. Over two-thirds of North Carolinians say they plan on voting before or on Election Day. Democrats and Republicans seem equally energized. Over 83 percent of North Carolinians indicate that they are likely to vote with over 85 percent of Democrats and Republicans indicating a strong likelihood of voting.
“The turnout in the 2018 midterm elections was 53 percent,” said Poll Director David McLennan. “so we are likely to see an increase in overall voter turnout from that election. The stakes appear very high to respondents in our poll.”
One of the issues that is driving the expected high turnout this year is the Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs case, effectively ending the national protection for women to seek abortions. Although over 40 percent of North Carolinians indicated that this decision made them more likely to vote, Democrats were almost twice as likely to state that the Dobbs decision increased their interest in voting (56.1% v. 28%). Women were more likely than men to identify the Dobbs decision as influencing their voting decisions, as well as African American voters and those with higher levels of education.
“Supreme Court decisions often affect voter turnout,” said David McLennan. “Brown v. Board of Education increased voter turnout in 1954, for example. The Dobbs decision appears to be influencing voters in North Carolina, especially those that might favor Democratic candidates.”
The major federal elections in the state—for the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives—are extremely close six weeks from Election Day with less than a percentage point separating Republican Ted Budd and Democrat Cheri Beasley in their race for the senate (Budd 41.3% v. Beasley 41%). However, 12.2 percent of North Carolinians indicate that they have not made up their minds in this race. Although Beasley is running strong among Democrats, she is not running as strongly among Black voters with under 60 percent indicating that they will vote for her at this time. Likewise, Budd is the preference of almost 75 percent of Republicans, but his margin among white voters is down from that of Donald Trump in 2020.
“Although the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina is not getting as much national attention as others like in Pennsylvania and Georgia, it may be one of the tightest races in the country and could determine control of the U.S. Senate,” said David McLennan.
Equally tight is the Congressional Generic Ballot in North Carolina with Republican candidates getting the slightest of nods over Democratic candidates (43.6 v. 43%).
“It is interesting that the generic ballot question gets more support from Democratic and Republican voters than their respective U.S. Senate candidates,” said David McLennan. “This points to the fact that many voters in the state do not know that much about the two major party candidates running for the Senate.”
DIRECTION OF THE COUNTRY AND STATE
As with recent Meredith Polls, North Carolinians do not like the direction of the country or state. Only one-in-five of our respondents thought the country was moving in the right direction. Just over 40 percent of Democrats thought the country was moving in the right direction, but less than 7 percent of Republicans did so. Likewise, Black voters and younger voters were more likely to feel that the country was moving in the right direction.
North Carolina fared better than the nation in terms of voter approval. Just over 40 percent of the respondents thought the state was moving in the right direction and just under half (49.9%) of North Carolinians thought the state was heading in the wrong direction. The same demographic groups that thought the country was moving in the right/wrong direction also thought the state was moving in the respective directions.
“The mood of the North Carolina electorate is decidedly unhappy,” said David McLennan. “Normally numbers like these would indicate that the party in power and their candidates would suffer in an election year. However, because of gerrymandered districts in congressional and legislative races, we may not see many seats turning over from one party to another.”
APPROVAL OF PRESIDENT, GOVERNOR, AND U.S. SUPREME COURT
President Joe Biden’s approval rating is underwater by a significant amount (40.3% approve and 56.1% disapprove). This almost 16-point gap is much greater than a year ago. The only demographic groups in which Biden’s approval is greater than his disapproval are Black voters and those with graduate degrees. The youngest voters (18–24-year-olds) also approve of Biden’s performance as president at a higher rate than those who disapprove of his job performance. Republican voters, on the other hand, are extremely critical of Biden’s job as president—only 8 percent approve of his job as president.
“Typically, a president whose job approval numbers are so underwater would be a significant drag on his party’s candidates in an election year,” said David McLennan. “Democratic candidates, however, seem to be defying traditional political gravity, as senate candidate Cheri Beasley is holding her own against Republican Ted Budd with six weeks left in the campaign.”
Governor Roy Cooper continues to be considered the most effective political leader in the state with over 55 percent of North Carolinians approving of his job as governor with just over one-third disapproving. Among partisans, 83.5 percent of Democrats approve of the job Cooper is doing, 30.9 percent of Republicans, and just under half of unaffiliated voters (49.7%).
A plurality of North Carolinians disapprove of the job that the Supreme Court is doing (43.7% approve v. 48.1% disapprove). The negative net approval rating is led by Democrats (29.7% approve) and unaffiliated voters (39.8% approve), while a strong majority of Republican voters (62.5%) approve of the job the Supreme Court is doing.
“It is clear that the current conservative majority on the Court and its recent rulings have affected Democrats and Democrat-leaning unaffiliated voters in North Carolina,” states David McLennan. “The Dobbs ruling in particular has made those voters see the Court as a more partisan institution.”
POLICY ISSUES: ABORTION
As stated above, the abortion issue seems to be energizing Democratic voters as they head into voting season. The Dobbs decision and the subsequent news coverage of it have caused almost all (over 95%) of the respondents to say they followed these stories a little or a lot. As has been the case with North Carolina public opinion on abortion generally, our respondents were very divided on the Dobbs decision (40.5% approve and 51% disapprove). The partisan divides were even more stark with only 20 percent of Democrats supporting the Dobbs ruling, 68.7% of Republicans, and 40.8% of unaffiliated voters. Other gaps were apparent between men and women (Men 52.7% approval; Women 38.6% approval) and among age groups (18-24 38.6% approval; 76+ 52.7% approval).
Since states are now permitted to pass laws about abortion, we asked about North Carolinians’ preferences about what the state should do. Over half (53.2%) favor continuing with the provisions provided by the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision or expanding abortion access further. Just over 10% favor making abortions illegal after 15 weeks. A small percentage (7.3%) want abortion illegal in all circumstances, while almost one-quarter (24.8%) want abortion to be illegal except in the cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is endangered.
There are large partisan differences about how the state should move forward on abortion. Almost 80 percent of Democrats favor keeping the current provisions of Roe or expanding access to abortion, while just over one-quarter of Republicans support the same approach.
“Abortion has become a central issue in the fall campaigns, but there is no majority opinion about what North Carolina should do moving forward,” said David McLennan. “It is clear why some political candidates have moved away from the absolutist position of a ban on abortions with no exceptions and why Republican candidates in tight races would not want to talk about the issue at all.”
POLICY ISSUES: SAME SEX MARRIAGE LEGISLATION
Until the Dobbs decision and discussions immediately after the announcement of the ruling, the issue of same sex marriage was considered settled by the 2015 Obergefell ruling. However, Democrats in Congress have introduced legislation to protect the right of same sex couples to marry in case the Supreme Court overturns to the 2015 ruling. A majority of North Carolinians (56.3%) favor a federal law protecting this right, while just over one-third of respondents indicated that they did not support such legislation. There are large partisan differences on this legislation with almost 80 percent of Democrats supporting this bill, but only about one-in-three Republicans supporting the protection of same sex marriage through legislation. Some age differences also exist on this question with younger voters more likely than older voters to support this bill.
“It is amazing that in a ten year period, from the passing of Amendment One in North Carolina by a 61-39% vote, that public opinion has completely changed on same sex marriage,” said David McLennan. “More North Carolinians now accept this as a normal part of society.”
POLICY ISSUES: CONTRACEPTION LEGISLATION
In some of the same post-Dobbs discussions, the issue of overturning the 1963 Griswold Supreme Court decision making access to contraception legal was mentioned. Any attempt to make access to contraception—either judicially or legislatively—would seem to be very unpopular with North Carolinians, as over 82 percent of North Carolinians (with large majorities across all demographic groups) favor maintaining legal access to contraception, while less than 9 percent are not supportive.
POLICY ISSUES: STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS
On the issue of President Biden’s executive order offering $10,000 of student loan forgiveness for those who met the eligibility requirements (or $20,000 for Pell-eligible loan recipients), North Carolinians were split, with a slight majority (51.8%) favoring the reduction and just over 40% being opposed. The largest group of supporters strongly favored President Biden’s action (33%), while the large group of those against the action (28.8%) strongly opposed the order. As was predictable, almost 80 percent of Democrats favored the action by President Biden and almost 70 percent of Republicans opposed the order.
SUPPORT FOR DEMOCRACY AND POLITICAL VIOLENCE
The threat to democracy in the United States is real, according to North Carolina voters. Almost two-thirds of our respondents (63.9%) indicate that it is a real threat, while another 19.7% say that democracy is under threat, but that it is not serious. On a related question, 90 percent of North Carolina voters believe that it is important that the country remain a democracy (or committed to democratic principles). In terms of demographic groups, a majority of all groups—including political partisans—recognize the danger and want to protect democracy.
In terms of having a strong leader, even if democracy suffers, only about one-third (36.3%) of respondents would prefer a strong leader over democracy. Of all the demographic groups represented, only Black voters and those 18-24 years old had a majority of their respondents favor a strong leader over democracy.
Political violence used to be considered for fringe groups in the United States. Our survey results, however, suggest that political violence is more mainstream. Over 30 percent of North Carolinians say that, if elected officials cannot protect democracy or Americans, political violence is justified. A similar percentage believe that political violence is an appropriate response for patriots who believe that things have gotten “off track.” The most concerning response is to the question about whether force is an appropriate response to a changing American way of life. Almost half of the respondents indicated that it is. Of all the groups represented in the survey, Republicans are 50% more likely to indicate a proclivity to resort to violence or force than are Democrats. In fact, a majority of Republicans feel that using force as a response to a changing way of life is an appropriate choice.
Our final question in this series had to do with people’s expectations for a civil war in the United States in the future. Over one-third of our respondents (34.9%) expect or consider the possibility of a civil war in the future and only 44% don’t consider it a possibility. In the demographic groups, there were no significant differences between Democrats and Republicans on this question, or among racial or ethnic groups. The only group with significantly high expectations for a civil war in the country is those with a high school diploma. Almost half of this group considers a civil war to be a real possibility.
“Although scholars and pundits have discussed the possibility of increased political violence or even a civil war in the United States, these results were troubling,” said David McLennan. “It is one thing to have a theoretical discussion about widespread use of political violence or even a civil war, but to hear from so many fellow North Carolinians that they are considering such possibilities is frightening. Our political rhetoric, especially during campaign season, has to be exacerbating this problem.”
About The Meredith Poll
The Meredith Poll conducted a survey of North Carolina registered voters. The online sample–from Dynata–used a quota based on the voter turnout in the 2018 Midterms to get our respondents. After the survey was completed, we weighted the survey for gender, party affiliation, geographic location, race and ethnicity, and education so that our sample most closely resembles North Carolina.
The sample had 819 respondents, giving us a confidence interval of +/- 3.3%. The survey was in the field September 20-23, 2022.
The Meredith Poll is part of the College’s commitment to civic engagement.