Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Legislature would be a tossup, poll suggests.

A new Public Policy Polling survey indicates trouble ahead for legislative Republicans. The latest poll finds that North Carolinians don't like the education cuts in the new GOP budget and that Republicans have lost ground to Democrats.  Republicans won't like this finding and will blame PPP, a Democratic firm, for skewing the results. Problem is that PPP has a good record for accurate polls -- and concludes that if there were an election today, it would be a tossup.  PPP foresaw the big Republican gains in the legislature last fall, with a finding that 51 percent of voters preferred Republicans and 40 percent Democrats, but since then there has been a shift back toward Democrats. Now it would be a 45-all tie.  "If things continue on this path, GOP control of the legislature may be a short lived experiment," PPP said in a news release.

It's hard to imagine Republicans giving up the gains they have waited so long to make in the legislature.  But the recent ill-advised ploy coupling a budget to a badly needed unemployment benefit extension indicates that wiser heads among the Grand Old Party may not be able to get their voices heard in the Republican caucus. On the other hand, Republicans may just be having too much fun to worry about consequences down the road. The next election is more than a year away, and that is, as they say in politics, a couple of lifetimes away.  But someone in the GOP ought to be wondering if they're overplaying their hand.

Here's what PPP has to say:

North Carolinians are strongly opposed to the cuts in education that legislative Republicans have proposed and as a result the new GOP majority is now less popular with the voters than the Democrats they replaced just a few months ago.

40% of voters have a favorable opinion of the Democrats in the General Assembly now compared to only 34% who view the Republicans positively. 43% have an unfavorable opinion of both the Democrats and the Republicans. The GOP's favorability is down a net 8 points from March when it broke down 38% positive and 39% negative. Since then the party's grown more unpopular with independents, going from a 37% unfavorable rating to 47% while holding steady at a 26% positive rating. And even some Republican voters are starting to have their doubts- the favorable number with the GOP base has declined from 73% to 66%.

There are any number of reasons that could be responsible for the declining popularity of the new majority but one thing that's definitely contributing is strong public opposition to the proposed GOP education cuts. Only 22% of voters support an 8.8% cut to the K12 system with 64% opposed. Just 29% support a 10% cut to the community colleges, with 58% opposed. And only an equal 29% support a 15.5% cut to the UNC system with 44% opposed.

Opposition to those cuts in education extends well beyond the Democratic base. Although a plurality of Republican voters does support the proposed UNC cuts, they oppose the K12 cuts by a 47/37 margin and they oppose the community college cuts by a 42/40 margin. With the independents whose strong support for Republican candidates last fall fueled the new GOP majority there is considerably stronger opposition- 68/18 against the K12 cuts, 65/28 against the community college cuts, and 42/35 against the UNC cuts.

The end result of this disintegrating popularity for the Republican majority is that if we had a legislative election today it would be an extremely close fought battle for control. The generic ballot is a tie with 45% of voters saying they'd choose a Democrat right now and 45% saying they'd go with a Republican. That represents an 11 point shift toward the Democrats since last fall's election- PPP's final generic ballot measure last fall came out at 51% of voters planning to go Republican to only 40% who supported Democrats. If things continue on this path GOP control of the legislature may be a short lived experiment.

This analysis is also available on our blog:



Jim said...

Jack Betts says "Problem is that PPP has a good record for accurate polls. . ." It seems to me, Mr. Betts, that there are two types of polling: first, that which is intended for the use of candidates to determine the direction of the popular wind and, second, that which is intended for publication to -- potentially -- shift the direction of that wind. Based on the record available on the internet, I would put PPP in the second category (where they comfortably coexist with your own personal biases).

Anonymous said...

How is a poll 18 months before an election worthy of breath, ink, bytes, or whatever it is you use to write your column?

Can you say "LAZY"?

Jack Betts said...

Anon: I think you mean blog, but you pretty much proved why I run news of new polls on politics:
It must be interesting -- it certainly got your attention.

Thanks for writing!

Anonymous said...

Most educated North Carolinians know that good schools are essential for a good future and are willing to pay the taxes to support schools. Unfortunately, Republicans are a lot more worried about being elected than what happens 10 years down the road. Truth of the matter is a 13% cut (8.8% + the "discretionary" cuts) brings the grand total of education cuts over the past three years to over 20%. As far as House Republicans touting giving local superintendents complete power in choosing the discretionary cuts so as to avoid teacher layoffs, it is the ultimate act of cowardice. Many systems will have no other choice but to cut teachers, but the House Republicans will say, "Well we gave them the flexibility to make the decision, we didn't cut teachers, they did." It is sickening to watch our state fall to 48th in the nation in per pupil spending while Minnesota, Colorado, and Washington State take all of the tech sector jobs.