McCrory up 2 on Last Poll of Year; Measuring the Panthers Bandwagon

| Tom Jensen

PPP’s final North Carolina poll of the year finds Pat McCrory and Roy Cooper right where they’ve been all year- in a toss up. McCrory has the 44/42 advantage this month.  Going back to February the two have been within 3 points of each other every month- McCrory led by 2 then and by 3 in April, then Cooper led by 3 in May, 2 in July, and 3 in August, McCrory took back a 3 point lead in September, Cooper took back a 1 point lead in October, and now McCrory finishes up the year with a 2 point advantage. That’s 4 polls with McCrory up slightly and 4 polls with Cooper up slightly- there’s little doubt this is the premier Governor’s race in the country for next year.

The Governor’s race remains a choice for voters basically between someone who’s unpopular (McCrory’s approval is 38/44 and he’s been under water for 29 months now) and undefined (46% of voters have no opinion about Cooper one way or another). Voters are clearly open to the possibility of replacing McCrory but it’s not yet clear whether they’ll find Cooper to be a better alternative as they get to know him better.

Cooper leads Ken Spaulding 54/10 in the Democratic primary, a 44 point lead that’s pretty comparable to the 45 point one he had in October at 58/13. For what it’s worth McCrory would lead Spaulding 47/32 head to head.

In the Senate race Richard Burr continues his usual pattern of having voters split pretty much three ways about his job performance- 33% approve, 34% disapprove, and 33% have no opinion either way.  Burr leads Deborah Ross and Kevin Griffin each 46/35, and Chris Rey 47/33 in hypothetical match ups. A lot of that is a function of the Democratic candidates being pretty much unknown at this point- they all have between 20 and 27% name recognition. Ross is the strong early favorite for the Democratic nomination with 41% to 15% for Griffin and 5% for Rey, although 39% of voters remain undecided.

North Carolinians are firmly supportive of two of the main pieces of gun legislation that have been discussed in recent weeks. 85% would support a bill barring people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms to only 6% who are opposed to that. That idea has broad bipartisan support with Republicans (88/6), Democrats (86/6), and independents (79/8) all strongly in favor of it. It’s a similar story when it comes to expanded background checks- 85% of voters support them to only 8% opposed with favor coming from Democrats (89/6), Republicans (84/9), and independents (79/10) alike.

North Carolinians are hopping on the Panthers bandwagon. Last December when the Panthers were 3-8-1, only 34% of voters in the state said they were Panthers fans. By January, after the team made its surprising run to the division crown, 40% identified themselves as Panthers fans. When we polled it again in mid-October when the Panthers were 5-0, the share of North Carolinians who were Panthers fans was up to 51%. And now this week at 12-0, 60% are Panthers fans. Rarely can you measure the growing bandwagon as precisely as this. Last December we found that Ron Rivera’s approval with Panthers fans stood at only 37/32- it’s now 81/3.

College football loyalties in the state are pretty stable compared to a year ago: UNC has the clear lead with 27% to 14% each for Duke and NC State, 9% for ECU, 5% for Appalachian State, and 4% for Wake Forest. Larry Fedora’s seen a huge improvement in his popularity among UNC fans, with his approval going from a 42/13 spread after last season up now to 66/5. Let there be no doubt despite the excitement of this football season that UNC is still a basketball school though- 54% of Tar Heel fans say they’d prefer to win a basketball national championship to only 35% who pick football. There haven’t been any big shifts in approval numbers for any of the other football coaches in the state- it’s worth noting Ruffin McNeill finished his ECU tenure with a 50/7 approval spread- there were barely any fans unhappy with his performance at all.

A few last notes from North Carolina:

-Thom Tillis is finishing his first year in office with a 28/35 approval rating. He never has become popular with voters in the state.

-73% of voters in the state, including 56% of Republicans, support increasing the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour. 16% think the minimum wage should stay where it is and 8% would support eliminating it altogether,

-61% of voters support the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, to only 28% who are opposed.

Full results here

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