The most recent Meredith Poll, in the field October 27-30, 2022, provides a snapshot of North Carolina voter opinions in the final days of the 2022 Midterms.
Along with preferences on senate candidates, satisfaction with the direction of the country and the state, and approval of the president, governor, and the Supreme Court, the poll examined political polarization. The new poll found that voter enthusiasm remains high and major races remain close.
Voter Enthusiasm and Candidate Preferences
Little has changed since the Meredith Poll in late September. Voter enthusiasm is very high with over 87 percent of respondents indicating they were likely to vote. Over 70 percent of Democrats and Republicans indicated they were very likely to vote, while just under 55 percent of Unaffiliated voters indicated that they were very likely to vote. Older voters were much more likely to respond that they were very likely to vote, while the youngest voters—18-24 years old—were more likely to say they were somewhat likely to vote.
“The high percentage of voters indicating that they were very likely to vote suggests we may exceed the voter turnout in 2018,” said Poll Director David McLennan. “Although young voters don’t indicate the same likelihood of voting, compared to Gen X, Baby Boomer, and Silent Generation voters, if turnout of the youngest cohort of voters exceeds 40 percent this year, that could be historic.”
The highest profile race on the North Carolina ballot—the US Senate race—continues to be very close with Ted Budd holding a very slim lead—1.2%–over Cherie Beasley. This is a very slight increase over the last Meredith Poll. Beasley polls well with more educated voters, those who live in urban areas, and minority voters. Budd, performs well with rural voters and those with less education. He performs slightly better among white voters and among men.
“This race will, as with most Senate elections in North Carolina, comes down to which campaign gets its voters to the polls on or before Election Day,” said David McLennan. “A higher than average turnout among young voters might propel Beasley to victory, while strong turnout outside the major urban counties would bode well for Ted Budd. There are far fewer undecided voters with just over a week left in the campaign. Historically, many of these late deciders go with the Republican candidate, so even though most voters have made up their minds, these late deciders will be important.”
The generic ballots for U.S. House, N.C. Senate, N.C. House, and the Supreme Court races have similar margins to the U.S. Senate race. In the U.S. House generic ballot, Republican candidates are favored by almost three points—just inside the confidence interval. The margins for N.C. Senate and N.C. House are smaller, but still slightly favor Republican candidates. The margin for the N.C. Supreme Court are equally small, but have Democratic candidates slightly ahead.
“Since the US House races, along with those for the N.C. Senate and N.C. House are decided on a district level, generic ballots only show broad trends and may not reflect how individual races are heading,” said David McLennan. “The small margins indicate that the competitive races—in U.S. House District 13 and about 15% of the legislative races—may be extremely close this year. There are more undecided voters at this late stage of the campaign, so they will have a large voice in how these competitive races turn out.
“The Supreme Court races are very important this year with the Court currently divided between four Democratic justices and three Republican ones,” said McLennan. “I suspect the Supreme Court races might go as the U.S. Senate race goes. If Ted Budd does well, the two Republican candidates may win. If Cherie Beasley wins the U.S. Senate race, the Democratic candidates may prevail.”
Direction of the Country and State
North Carolinians continue to be dissatisfied with the direction of the country and state. Over 70 percent of respondents were not satisfied with the direction of the country. Every demographic group, except those who consider themselves very liberal, had a majority of its respondents indicating that they were dissatisfied with the direction of the country. Republicans and conservatives had the largest number of respondents who were dissatisfied, but a majority of Democrats did as well.
“These results are no surprise,” said David McLennan. “Americans have been dissatisfied with the direction of the country for some time. Economic uncertainty, culture wars, and questions about the basic foundations of American government create this strong sense of dissatisfaction. This perpetual dissatisfaction leads to ‘change’ elections in which the party in power tends to suffer at the polls. This dissatisfaction would suggest that Democrats, unless they have historic turnout among these voters, could pay a steep price in this year’s midterm elections.”
Although a plurality of North Carolinians is dissatisfied with the direction of the state, Democrats, Black voters, and those with the highest level of education are satisfied with the direction of the state.
“Black voters, who tend to be very supportive of Governor Roy Cooper, may be satisfied with the political direction of North Carolina because he is in the governor’s mansion. Highly educated voters may be economically insulated from some of the turmoil produced by inflation and other factors, so may feel like the state is doing reasonably well,” said David McLennan.
Approval of President and Governor
As with the last Meredith Poll, President Joe Biden’s approval is languishing at just over 41 percent. While over three-quarters of Democrats approve of the job Biden is doing, less than 30 percent of Democratic voters strongly approve of the job he is doing. Less than 10 percent of Republican voters approve of Biden’s work as president, with almost 75 percent strongly disapproving of him. Likewise, more Unaffiliated voters disapprove of Biden’s job as president.
“There is an intensity gap between Democrats and Republicans about Joe Biden. Many Democrats support Biden but don’t seem to be avid in their support. Republicans, on the other hand, very much dislike Biden’s work as president,” said David McLennan. “It is this intensity gap, not just the net disapproval, that should worry Democrats in the last few days of the midterm campaigns. Republican voters are highly motivated to punish Biden’s party and it is yet to be seen if Democrats will match the passion of the Republicans in their voter turnout.”
As with all Meredith Polls since he took office, Governor Roy Cooper has the highest approval ratings of any prominent politician, according to North Carolinians.
North Carolinians feel political polarization is a significant issue and are pessimistic about it getting better in the future. Well over 80 percent of respondents feel polarization is worse than in the past and only 14.2 percent think it will be better in the future. All demographic groups are equally pessimistic about the future of political polarization.
In asking about the two major parties, the most important findings of this Meredith Poll—and we ask the same questions on an annual basis—are that: 1. A plurality of respondents feel neither party governs in an honest and ethical way and 2. That almost two-thirds of respondents feel a viable third party would be better than the two major parties dominating the political system. There is widespread support for a viable third party than represents Americans more effectively.
“It is clear both major parties have lost the trust of the American people,” said David McLennan. “The rise in the number of unaffiliated voters in North Carolina is a sign many voters think the parties are more interested in power than dealing with problems that face the country. Although the political system is stacked against third parties winning offices, we could be close to a tipping point in which one or both of the major political parties might be replaced by a coalition of voters who want something different.”
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 724 respondents, giving us a confidence interval of +/- 3.4%. The survey was in the field October 27-30, 2022.
The Meredith Poll is part of the College’s commitment to civic engagement. Learn more at meredith.edu/meredith-poll