Meredith poll explores N.C. voter opinions on the Equal Rights Amendment, perceptions of discrimination
Published 1:19 p.m. Thursday
Responses to the most recent Meredith Poll show an increasing majority of North Carolina voters support the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The poll was conducted in partnership with ERA-NC Alliance.
The ERA was first introduced in Congress in 1923 to establish a constitutional right to equality based on gender. The bill to ratify the ERA in North Carolina was first introduced in the legislature in 1973 and came closest to passing in February 1977 with the North Carolina House approving the bill 61-55. The North Carolina Senate defeated the bill by a 26-24 margin that same year. The bill has been introduced in the General Assembly since 1977 but has not passed either chamber despite strong public support.
“According to Article V of the U.S. Constitution, the ERA has met all of the requirements to become the 28th Amendment,” said Jimmie Cochran Pratt, co-president of the ERA-NC Alliance. “Despite this, it is important that the North Carolina General Assembly ratify the ERA to show its support for the women of our state.”
In 2019, the Meredith Poll gauged public approval of the ERA finding that 67.4 percent of the respondents supported the General Assembly passing the bill to ratify the ERA, while only 16.9 percent opposed its passage.
In the 2023 administration of the Meredith Poll, the level of support has increased to 71.5 percent and the level of opposition has decreased to 13.5 percent.
Support for passing the ERA is nearly universal with only those with less than a high school education and those who self-identify as “very conservative” at approval levels of less than 50 percent.
“Despite strong public support and organized lobbying on behalf of the ERA, legislators seem unwilling to give a bill ratifying this amendment a fair hearing. There are some in the legislature who believe that the time for ERA’s passage is in the past and others with principled opposition to the amendment, however, given the perception that women continue to face discrimination in North Carolina, having the debate and vote on the amendment could send a powerful message that equality is important for all,” said Meredith Poll Director David McLennan.
While there are some partisan differences, with Democratic support being over 86 percent and Republican support just under 62 percent, the survey found that men and women have similar approval levels for the ERA, as do people who live in the urban, suburban, and rural areas of the state.
“The Meredith Poll results definitively confirm what we’ve always known — that North Carolinians value equality and a single set of laws governing both men and women,” said Teri Walley, co-president of the ERA-NC Alliance. “Our lawmakers must act now. North Carolina voters will no longer be held hostage by politicians’ failure to end discrimination against women.”
Equal Rights in North Carolina
A point of confusion for many North Carolinians is whether the North Carolina Constitution offers equal protection to all North Carolinians. Although the current version of the state constitution begins with a short statement that “all persons are created equal,” (Article I, Section 1), many of the Meredith Poll respondents were not sure whether this statement was specific enough to protect against discrimination. Just over 50 percent of respondents said that the state constitution protected them, while about a quarter said it did not. The other quarter did not know. The various demographic groups’ results generally followed that pattern with some differences. More Republicans than Democrats feel as though the constitution guarantees equal protection and the more educated feel that there are fewer protections than do less educated respondents.
The Meredith Poll asked a follow-up question about whether the legislature should pass a bill allowing voters to determine whether the state constitution should be amended to spell out the categories of citizens that should be protected. Almost 80 percent of the respondents supported the legislature giving citizens the right to vote on such an amendment, while just under nine percent opposed it. Although support was stronger among Democrats than Republicans and among those who refer to themselves as liberal as compared to those who refer to themselves as conservative, almost every group had strong support for the legislature to take up and pass such legislation.
The poll also surveyed registered voters about their perceptions of discrimination. For these results and more information, view the full report at meredith.edu/meredith-poll.
The Meredith Poll surveyed North Carolina registered voters. The online sample – from Dynata – used a quota based on the most recent U.S. Census estimates of North Carolina to sample 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 973 respondents, giving us a confidence interval of +/- 3%. The survey was in the field from February 3-7, 2023.
About The Meredith Poll
The Meredith Poll asks North Carolinians their opinions on a variety of social and political public issues. It is housed in the Department of History, Political Science, and International Studies at Meredith College, one of the largest women’s colleges in the Southeast. The Meredith Poll was launched in the spring of 2015 as part of Meredith’s commitment to civic engagement.
About the ERA-NC Alliance
The ERA-NC Alliance is a statewide North Carolina 501(c)(4) organization that advocates for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment by North Carolina and works to establish the ERA as the 28th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Alliance is composed of respected women’s organizations including the N.C. Association of Women Attorneys, the National Organization for Women NC, American Association of University Women NC, and the North Carolina League of Women Voters. For more information, go to ERA-NC.org.