The Spring Meredith poll offers broad insights

Published May 5, 2022

By Meredith College Poll

The Republican US Senate primary in North Carolina has garnered most of the attention in the state with former president Donald Trump endorsing Ted Budd and coming to the state to rally for him. Our poll results indicate a high degree of interest in the primaries generally and the Republican senate primary specifically, but it is worth noting that midterm primary turnout in North Carolina averages about 15% over the last three midterm primary elections. In our survey, over 78% of respondents indicated some interest in voting in the primary elections with almost half indicating that they would vote in the Republican primary.

Of the respondents indicating an interest in voting in the Republican primary, just under one-third (32.7%) indicate they will vote for Ted Budd, while 25.7% indicate they will vote for former Governor Pat McCrory. It is worth noting that over one-third of respondents indicate they were not sure, meaning that the race could still go either way. Budd runs strongest with the most conservative Republican voters, those in rural parts of the state, and those with lower educational attainment, while McCrory does better with more moderate Republican voters and those in urban areas.

Poll Director David McLennan states: “The Trump endorsement of Budd is significant. Public opinion polls of this race during the winter showed McCrory with a lead, but Trump’s presence in the race, as well as heavy spending by independent expenditure organizations, such as the Club for Growth, against McCrory seems to have reversed Budd’s fortunes.”

The Democratic US Senate primary appears to be a shoo-in for former NC Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley, as her lead over Marcus Williams and the rest of the field is almost 40 points.

In our survey, instead of asking about specific races for the US House of Representatives, we asked the “generic ballot” question—asking whether people generally supported Democratic, Republican, or other party candidates in House races. In our survey, the generic Republican candidates had a 5.9-point lead over the generic Democratic candidates.

David McLennan notes: “The generic ballot results point to a very difficult year for Democrats. In previous election cycles, generic Democratic candidates were generally favored by small margins over generic Republican candidates. Since NC-13 appears to be in one swing House district in the state, it seems like the Republican nominee will head into the general election campaign with a slight advantage.”

Satisfaction with direction of the country and state

By an almost three-to-one margin, North Carolinians are dissatisfied with the direction of the country. Less than 27 percent of respondents—a low figure for the history of the Meredith Poll—are satisfied with the direction of the country. Over half of Democratic respondents, particularly those who are most liberal--were satisfied with the direction of the country, but fewer than one-in-five Republicans and Unaffiliated voters were satisfied. Less than half (48%) of the Black respondents were satisfied, but most respondents of other racial and ethnic groups were dissatisfied. Younger voters (40 years old and younger) indicated more satisfaction than older voters by a large margin and those who identified as more liberal were more satisfied than those who were moderate or more conservative.

“The fact that only liberal Democrats are satisfied with the direction of the country,” David McLennan states, “with every other demographic group with significant levels of dissatisfaction with the direction of the country poses a large issue for Democrats in a midterm election year. A majority of North Carolinians do not identify as liberal, so issues favored by liberals, such as forgiving student loans, may not be issues that will help Democratic candidates in 2022.”

North Carolinians are less dissatisfied with the direction of the state (a net satisfaction of -3.8 percentage points). Over 41 percent of respondents were satisfied with how things are going in North Carolina with just over 60 percent of Democrats being satisfied, but less than 30 percent of Republicans and just under one- third of unaffiliated voters agree with the direction of the state.

Although more people are satisfied with the direction of the state, the partisan divide demonstrates that most people see the state through the same political lens that they see the country. Despite Republicans holding a majority in the state legislature, Republican respondents in the state generally perceive the direction of the state as negatively as they perceive the direction of the country.

Approval of President Joe Biden and Governor Roy Cooper

President Joe Biden’s job approval in North Carolina has dropped significantly since the last Meredith Poll with just over 40 percent of respondents approving of his job as president. His net negative approval (-14 points) rivals the worst net approval of former President Trump—just prior to the 2018 midterm elections.

The partisan divide is predictable with 80 percent of Democrats approving of the job that Joe Biden is doing as president (down from almost 88% in the fall), with only 13 percent of Republicans, and 30 percent of unaffiliated voters approving of Biden’s job performance (down from 42% in the fall).

There are other divides in Biden’s job approval. Women consider Biden to be doing better than do men by over 11 points. Those under the age of 40 consider Joe Biden to be doing better than do those over 40 by over 9 points.

“The reality is that Joe Biden’s approval numbers are a drag on Democrats in an election year. 11 has to be particularly troublesome for Democrats that Biden has lost 12 points in his approval from unaffiliated voters and seen a sharp drop in the support of Hispanics. Even Black voters, thought to be Biden’s salvation in 2020 have had their support decline from the mid-80s to the upper 60s,” said David McLennan.

Governor Roy Cooper continues to have relatively strong approval, given the strong partisan divide within the state. His net approval ratings are over 13 points (50.6% approve v. 37.4% disapprove). Just over 77 percent of Democrats approve of the job Cooper is doing, while 46 percent of unaffiliated voters do. On the other hand, 60 percent of Republicans disapprove of the job Cooper is doing, but their intensity in their disapproval is not as strong as it is for President Biden, with under 30 percent of all Republicans strongly disapproving of Cooper’s performance as governor.

“Governor Cooper continues to be a bright spot for Democrats in North Carolina. His approval continues to run ahead of President Biden’s and Cooper has stronger favorability among groups that Biden has lost support with, including unaffiliated voters and Hispanics,” said David McLennan.

Political Partisanship and the Desire for a Viable Third Party

Although political partisans agree on very little, Democrats and Republicans, as well as others, agree that the country is more divided than in the past. Over three-quarters of the respondents indicated that partisanship was worse today than in the past with over 80 percent of Republicans and unaffiliated voters feeling this way and just under two-thirds of Democrats. Almost half of the respondents indicated that they thought political partisanship would be worse in five years, with one-quarter thinking it will be the same.

This polarization is driven by many factors—media fragmentation, politicians who no longer use compromise, and even fundamental beliefs about what is true—but it is noteworthy that this is the highest level of pessimism expressed about the inability of the country to come together since we began asking questions about polarization in 2015. Even recent events such as bi-partisan support for the Ukrainians against Russia do not seem to be affecting North Carolinians’ views about partisanship.

Although there has been a slight increase in the belief that there is more political partisanship, two other findings are worth noting. First, a plurality of North Carolinians (38.1%) feel that the Democratic Party is more extreme than the Republican Party (the reverse was true at the end of the Trump administration).

“Even though Democrats in Washington have not been able to pass most of the Biden administration’s most progressive policies, the perception that Democrats are moving to the left is hurting the party in North Carolina. Just under 30 percent of North Carolinians describe themselves as very or somewhat liberal, so the “liberal” label should hurt Democratic candidates at the ballot box in 2022 and beyond, unless some changes are made,” argues David McLennan.

The increasing perception that the parties are increasingly polarized leads many North Carolinians (55%) to believe that a viable third party is needed to represent the views of citizens. Although third parties do exist in the state—the Libertarian and Constitutional parties, for example—these parties rarely have the visibility or resources to compete against the Democratic and Republican parties.

David McLennan believes “third parties have a difficult pathway to electoral success in North Carolina and in the nation, but an increasing number of North Carolinians, including younger voters, think the major parties are not serving them well.”

Policy issues in 2022

Expanding Medicaid

Over 70 percent of North Carolinians think the state should join the thirty-eight other states in expanding Medicaid and giving health care access to more lower income citizens. Almost 90 percent of Democrats support this expansion, but a majority of Republicans, including those who consider themselves the most conservative also support Medicaid expansion.

“Over the last few years, support for expanding Medicaid has increased in the state. There appears to be some movement in the General Assembly, even among Republicans who have argued against Medicaid expansion in the past, to expand access to health care.” David McLennan states. “Whether the legislators call it an expansion of Medicaid or something else, the public opinion would suggest this to be a popular move.”

Legalizing marijuana

For years bills have been filed in the General Assembly to legalize marijuana in some form—medical or recreational—but these bills have rarely advanced beyond the filing stage. With many states legalizing some or all forms of marijuana use and Congressional leaders, like Chuck Schumer, now talking about some form of marijuana legalization or decriminalization, North Carolina may be on the verge of reconsidering its long­ standing hesitancy on this issue.

Over 60 percent of respondents in our survey favor legalizing medical marijuana use or both medical and recreational marijuana use. Only 13 percent of those surveyed wanted to keep all forms of marijuana illegal. The support for some form of marijuana legalization is broad and cuts across all demographic and political lines.

Abortion laws after the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade

Supreme Court watchers now believe that Roe v. Wade may be overturned in the next few weeks with a decision on Whole Women’s Health v. Jackson. If Roe is overturned and the issue of abortion rights is returned to the states, North Carolina may ultimately pass a law that directs women and health care providers about the legal course of action in this area. Many states around the country have preemptively passed legislation either banning abortion or severely limiting the right of women to have abortions.

Just over half of the North Carolinians surveyed (52.6%) want North Carolina to pass a law keeping the current provisions of Roe or expanding abortion access further. Just under 40 percent of respondents want a law that severely restricts access to abortion or makes it illegal in all circumstances.

This is one of the most partisan findings in the survey. Over three-quarters of Democrats want to keep Roe’s provisions or expand abortion access, while almost 70 percent of Republicans want to restrict access to abortion or make it illegal. Also, over two-thirds of the youngest respondents (18-24 years of age) want to keep Roe’s provisions or expand access to abortions, with older voters being more evenly split between maintaining access to abortion versus restricting or eliminating access.

“The expected decision by the conservative Court to overturn Roe will eventually lead to a very divisive fight over abortion law in North Carolina. Currently, the Republicans cannot overturn a veto from Governor Cooper, but if they pick up a few more seats and get a veto-proof majority, we may see North Carolina go the way of Texas or other states and immediately try to restrict abortion rights,” says David McLennan, even if most of the state’s citizens favor protecting abortion rights.”

“Don’t Say Gay” in NC

Another “culture war” issue dividing North Carolinians is what is popularly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. This Florida law puts restrictions on public school teachers and employees discussing issues surrounding sexual identity, particularly in the lower grades. It allows parents to sue the school system if they believe teachers and staff members violate this law.

Almost half of those surveyed (47.1%) think that elementary school parents should be able to sue the schools if teachers and staff members discuss issues related to sexual identity. When asked if they supported this kind of law for all grade levels, North Carolinians were evenly split (41.5% support; 41.7% oppose).

Many demographic and political factors influenced support for this type of legislation. A majority of Republicans (almost 60%) support this legislation as it applies to elementary schools with large majorities of self-identified conservatives supporting this. Those identifying as Hispanic/Latinx also supported this type of legislation, as did older respondents.

“Public education will continue to be a political battlefield in 2022 and beyond,” argues David McLennan. “Cultural issues such as discussing sexual identity, banning transgender athletes from participating in school sports, and banning books with certain content are all part of the culture wars being fought in electoral politics. As we saw in the Virginia governor’s race last year, Republicans can be very successful in appealing to parental rights on a host of educational topics.”

Constitutional limits on older candidates

With the possibility of two octogenarians—Joe Biden and Donald Trump—being the major party nominees for their respective parties in 2024 and the concerns raised by some about having a sitting president in his eighties, we decided to ask North Carolinians if they thought the Constitution should be amended to put an upper age limit on federal elected officials (e.g., president and members of Congress). Over three-quarters of those surveyed thought an upper limit was advisable. Support for an upper limit was universal with political partisans, people with all levels of educational attainment, and, most interestingly, respondents across all age categories—young to old—supporting a maximum age for serving.

We also asked what the maximum age should be for those serving in the presidency and Congress. Although a slight plurality of respondents indicated that 50 should be the maximum age for those serving in those offices, a majority of respondents thought the maximum age should be 65-75. Also interesting was that Democrats, women, and those will less educational attainment felt that the maximum age should be younger, while Republicans, males, and those with more education felt the maximum age should be higher.

David McLennan states: “My students often ask me why the Constitution sets a minimum age for members of Congress and the presidency, but not a maximum age. I always tell them that the Founders’ life expectancy was so much shorter than the modern life expectancy that they never considered people serving in Congress and, potentially, the White House in their eighties. North Carolinians seem to agree with my students that the eligibility requirements in the Constitution should be revisited.”

Budget priorities

In polling it is difficult to get an accurate assessment of what issues people really consider to be most important. Almost all North Carolinians will identify issues like public education and law enforcement to be top priorities. In this survey, we tried a different approach to getting at the priorities of North Carolinians. We asked them to spend a hypothetical $100 across four different budget areas: health care, transportation/infrastructure, law enforcement, and education. We allowed them to allocate as much or as little of the $100 across those areas as they saw fit.

In our results, education and health care were the two top priorities for all respondents, with law enforcement a close third. Transportation/infrastructure was the lowest of the four. However, when broken down by political party and gender, there were different priorities:

Health care
Law enforcement

Republican                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Health care                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Law enforcement                                                                                                                                                                                                              Education                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Transportation

Unaffiliated                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Education                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Health care                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Law enforcement                                                                                                                                                                                                     Transportation

Men                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Law enforcement                                                                                                                                                                                                              Education                                                                                                                                                                                                                Transportation                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Health care

Women                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Education                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Health care                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Law enforcement                                                                                                                                                                                                   Transportation

Distracted driving laws in NC

On the issue of a law to ban the use of handheld devices while driving, North Carolinians remain strongly in favor of such as bill being passed. Well over 90 percent of the respondents believe mobile phones are a major contributor to car accidents. All demographic groups, including the youngest respondents, agreed that using a mobile phone while driving leads to accidents.

As with previous Meredith Polls (2018 and 2021), over 80 percent of respondents support a hands-free law being passed in North Carolina that would make it illegal to hold a mobile device while driving. The support cuts across all demographic and political groups. Likewise, over 80 percent of respondents are frustrated that the state has not passed a distracted driving law, and well over a third of North Carolinians state that they would not vote for a legislator who voted “no” on a distracted driving bill.

As with previous Meredith Polls (2018 and 2021), over 80 percent of respondents support a hands-free law being passed in North Carolina that would make it illegal to hold a mobile device while driving. The support cuts across all demographic and political groups. Likewise, over 80 percent of respondents are frustrated that the state has not passed a distracted driving law, and well over a third of North Carolinians state that they would not vote for a legislator who voted “no” on a distracted driving bill.

 McLennan states: “Since we first started asking these questions four years ago, the results have been very consistent—citizens see the negative effects of using a mobile device while driving and strongly support legislation banning such behavior. Although most voters do not put distracted driving legislation at the top of the list of important political issues in an election year, it is significant that a large number of voters are willing to punish elected officials at the ballot box.”

Methodological Information

Mode: Online

Population: N.C. Registered Voters 18+

Dates in the field: April 25-27, 2022

Sample Size: 1225

Credibility Interval: +/- 2.7%

Weighting Variables (NC): Gender, Education, Location (Urban, Rural, and Suburban counties). Political Party, and Race and Ethnicity.

Procedures: The Meredith Poll used an online sample provided by Dynata. Participants were recruited into the sample by Dynata and received small amounts ofcompensation in exchange for their opinions. The survey was not an open- link, posted on social media, but rather was by direct invitation to a very large national pool ofpeople who agree to take online surveys. More information about the Dynata panels and quality tests are available here. Quotas on demographic variables such as gender, race, etc. were applied prior to online survey commencement.

Online interviews were included in the final dataset ifrespondents spent a minimum length of time on the interview and particular sections, and ifa respondent progressed through the entire survey. Respondents were recruited to the survey with a generic description about the fall elections.

Credibility Interval

Unlike a traditional random digit-dial telephone survey, online surveys do not have traditional margin of errors. Nonprobability quota samples like these do not adhere to assumptions of random selection. To account for uncertainty inherent in any sample-based research design, we provide a credibility interval. More information about this technique can be found here. The credibility interval was calculated by inflating traditional confidence intervals by a design effect calculated using the squared sum of weights. For this North Carolina sample, this means: (1.0 * 2.7= 2.7). We round these values up for presentation of results. As with all surveys, Total survey error often exceeds sampling error.

Weighting Information

Weights were generated in Qualtrics using a technique known as iterative proportional fitting, also known as raking. The weight variable was calculated based on the variables in the table below.

The demographic information was obtained through self-report--respondents answered closed ended questions.

Census—we used Census estimates for weighting


For more information on the Meredith Poll, go to: or contact:

David B. McLennan, Ph.D. Director of the Meredith Poll 919-760-2287


To see the complete poll, including crosstabs click on: Spring2022PollReport.pdf