The wave of Democratic support that hit recent elections in Virginia and Alabama may impact North Carolina similarly in the 2018 midterms.
According to a survey conducted by Hart Research Associates, a Democratic polling firm based in Washington, D.C., a poor image of the Republicans in the N.C. General Assembly among potential voters and enthusiasm among Democrats will likely result in substantial Democrat victories in North Carolina.
The survey, published Jan. 2, polled 602 likely North Carolina voters from Dec. 7 to Dec. 10.
“Republicans in the North Carolina state legislature elicit their highest negative image in at least two years,” the survey said. A 55 percent majority of North Carolinians disapprove of Republicans’ performance in the General Assembly.
Democrats retained support from key base groups, including 92 percent support among identified Democrats and 90 percent support among African-Americans.
The party also gained support with important swing groups. According to the survey, 41 percent of white women, who overwhelmingly supported President Donald Trump in the 2016 election, favored Democrats.
The most important factor in the upcoming elections is voter enthusiasm, the survey said. Support for Democrats is similar to the support for Democratic candidates in the recent Alabama senate race and Virginia governor’s race.
“While there is almost a year until November 2018, our survey in North Carolina mirrors the enthusiasm among Democrats that has presaged Democratic victories in other states, and signals substantial Democratic gains in North Carolina,” the survey said.
Mitch Kokai, senior political analyst at the conservative-leaning John Locke Foundation, said in an email that while Democrats will likely win seats in the General Assembly, it is unclear how many seats the party will take.
“What remains to be seen is whether 2018 will amount to a wave reminiscent of the Republicans’ 2010 landslide or a more typical reversal of a handful of seats here and there. Democrats are convinced of the former,” Kokai said.
NC Policy Watch director Rob Schofield said in an email that while Republicans will likely maintain majorities in both houses, they are not optimistic about the upcoming elections.
“I think they are, understandably, very concerned – if not resigned to losing several seats in 2018. The supermajority in the House is their most vulnerable spot. I do not think they expect to lose their actual majorities in either house,” Schofield said.
Schofield said Republicans will distance themselves as much as possible from President Trump and will focus on success in the state economy. Democrats will likely use the GOP’s relationship with the president and repeated disinvestment in essential public structures and systems to sway voters away from Republican candidates.
Democrats may want to be cautious about focusing on President Trump and Republican shortcomings if they want to win a substantial number of seats, Kokai said.
“If Democrats present no coherent message about what they would do differently, they might not end up making as many gains as they expect," he said.
While many were surprised by the result of the 2016 presidential election, Schofield said polls such as this one are still a good indication of general political trends.
“I think the survey does a pretty good job of capturing where people are at right now. I’ve been doing this work for 30 years and never felt such an enthusiasm level (among) progressive activists,” Schofield said.
Hart Research Associates is a public-opinion research firm that primarily works for Democratic clients. Apart from political clients, the firm regularly does polling for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal.
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