PPP’s newest North Carolina poll finds a similar story: Pat McCrory and Richard Burr have mediocre approval numbers but lead their potential opponents for reelection next year who tend to have low name recognition.
41% of voters approve of the job McCrory is doing to 45% who disapprove, numbers almost identical to his 41/46 approval spread in early January. This makes 19 polls in a row where McCrory’s approval numbers have been under water. Nevertheless McCrory leads both of his potential Democratic opponents- it’s a 44/39 advantage over Roy Cooper and a 44/34 one over Ken Spaulding.
There are a couple reasons for the disconnect between McCrory’s approval numbers and how he matches up with Democrats. One is that the Democratic candidates aren’t particularly well known. Even after 14 years as Attorney General Cooper has just 57% name recognition, and Spaulding’s name recognition is only 28%. The name recognition issue leads to there being a lot more undecided Democrats than Republicans. For instance in the McCrory/Cooper match up the undecideds voted for Barack Obama by 13 points in 2012, and 22% more of them are Democrats than Republicans. That speaks to a race likely to tighten as Cooper becomes better known.
The other reason for the disparity between McCrory’s approval and performance against Democrats is that he has a fair number of Republicans who don’t approve of the job he’s doing, but would still support him against a Democrat. McCrory’s approval spread with GOP voters is 73/18, but he leads Cooper 82/9 with them. That suggests Republican dissatisfaction with McCrory comes more from the ‘not conservative enough’ camp than the ‘he’s so conservative I might vote for the Democrat’ camp.
On the Senate front Richard Burr continues his usual trend of having about a third of voters (34%) who approve of him, about a third (35%) who disapprove of him, and about a third (31%) who don’t have an opinion either way. He leads 5 Democrats we tested against him by anywhere from 6 to 11 points.
The closest competitor to Burr is former Senator Kay Hagan, who trails 48/42. Even three months removed from the last of the year long barrage of attack ads against her, Hagan’s negatives remain high with her favorability coming in at 38/54. Burr leads Treasurer Janet Cowell and former Congressman Mike McIntyre by 7 points each (45/38 and 44/37 respectively), UNC President Tom Ross 44/35, and Secretary of Transportation and former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx 47/36. All of the non-Hagan potential contenders are pretty unknown- Foxx has 38% name recognition, McIntyre 32%, Cowell 30%, and Ross 26%. The low name recognition for Ross is an indicator of how little the story of his removal has attracted the attention of anyone beyond hardcore political observers.
The bottom line remains the same on both McCrory and Burr- if it’s a good Republican year or even a neutral year, they probably aren’t unpopular enough to lose. But if it’s a good Democratic year, they may find themselves in a fair amount of trouble especially if a credible candidate emerges in the Senate race.
Full results here