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North Carolina voters struggle to identify their elected officials, Meredith Poll shows

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland, Rutherford) talks to reporters outside the U.S. Supreme Court after he attended oral arguments in the Moore v. Harper case on Wednesday, December 7, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/TNS)

Most North Carolina voters don’t recognize the majority of state elected officials — according to a September Meredith College poll report.

Prominent North Carolina political figures, including state legislative chamber leaders N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland, Rutherford) and N.C. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Guilford, Rockingham), were correctly identified by less than 20 percent of respondents in the survey. 

Most candidates for governor in 2024 were also identified by less than 20 percent of respondents.

The report said that 80 percent of respondents could identify Gov. Roy Cooper, while 43 percent could identify Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. 

Outside of Cooper and Robinson, around 70 percent of the 801 registered voters who were surveyed opted for "don’t know" when asked about other political leaders. 

David McLennan, a professor of political science, is the director of the Meredith Poll. He said the report was administered by data company Dynata with a panel of 70,000 registered voters in North Carolina. He said the 801-person group was a random sample of those 70,000.

From there, the survey responses were weighted for gender, race and ethnicity, geographic location and party affiliation to accurately represent the state's voting population.

“We try to get a good cross section of North Carolinians,” McLennan said.

McLennan said he and his colleagues wanted to see if North Carolinians could identify the people in the legislature who make impactful decisions while in a fractured media environment. 

“Whether they get their news through social media or elsewhere, [everyone] can pretty much determine what kind of news they get,” he said. “And so there's no common understanding of politics these days.”

Johns Hopkins University conducted a survey in 2018 that revealed a general lack of knowledge about state legislatures among Americans.

About a third of respondents did not know which state officials they voted for beyond legislative members, lieutenant governor and governor.

Over half of respondents did not know if their state had a constitution.

Timothy J. Ryan, a professor of political science at UNC, said in an email that Cooper and Robinson likely had higher recognition rates in the poll due to the fact that the governor and lieutenant governor are statewide races.

“I think I might use the word ‘disappointing’ simply because 20 percent is a low number and I would like people to be more familiar with who runs the government,” Ryan said.

While the Meredith Poll looks at respondents’ knowledge about state representatives and officials, there are no surveys in the report that examine public knowledge or constituents' ability to recognize elected officials on the local level.

“I would say that what makes local government a little bit different than sort of the findings in the report is that we really are the government closest to the people,” Susan Romaine, Carrboro's mayor pro tem, said.

She said local government is at its best when community members feel comfortable knowing and talking with their council members — just like neighbors. 

"I think we all need to continue to look for ways to engage the community,” Romaine said. 

While she is sometimes recognized in local settings, Romaine said she continues to engage with as many community members as possible.

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McLennan said part of the motivation to include a recognition portion in the survey was to gauge people’s focus on state and local politics as opposed to just national politics. 

“We need to have familiarity with our elected officials so that we can hold them accountable,” he said. “They're not just faceless names on a ballot every two or four years.”

@DTHCityState |