Brock McCleary, president of Harper Polling, said Republicans should be worried about the recent Civitas Institute poll, which shows Democratic candidates in the lead.

“I think it’s further evidence that the 2018 midterms are setting up to be a very difficult challenge for Republicans at the federal and state level,” McCleary said. “I don’t think North Carolina is unique in that as a state. In many states we are seeing similar challenges at the state level as we do in Congress.”

Harper Polling administered the poll on behalf of the Civitas Institute, a conservative public policy organization, from Sept. 4 to Sept. 7. The poll surveyed 500 likely voters in North Carolina and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

McCleary presented the poll findings alongside Civitas President Donald Bryson at a Civitas Luncheon on Thursday, Sept. 20.

For the generic ballot, Democratic candidates lead their Republican challengers. On the generic state legislative ballot, 42 percent of likely voters picked the Democratic candidate, compared to the 36 percent who chose the Republican. Six percent said they would vote for someone else, and 16 percent said they were unsure.

“There seems to be a correlation on the generic ballot test between the amount of time the General Assembly is out of session and how well Republicans fare,” Bryson said. “Before this year’s legislative session in May, Republicans had erased the Democrat’s 15-point lead from the previous May. Then, as the session began Democrats jumped to an eight-point lead, which is now a six-point lead, as the General Assembly has been out of Raleigh for a couple of months.”

Likely voters were prompted to name a national issue at the forefront of their minds when considering their congressional vote. The most common answers were health care, immigration, and the economy.

On the generic congressional ballot, Democratic candidates once again came out on top. Forty-five percent of likely voters said they would vote for the Democratic candidate, while 38 percent would vote for a Republican candidate. Twelve percent were undecided and the remaining 5 percent would vote third-party.

The poll asked likely voters who they would pick out of three contenders running for a seat on the N.C. Supreme Court. The Democratic candidate, Anita Earls, was the leader, with 38 percent of likely voters. The incumbent, Republican Barbara Jackson, received 11 percent of likely voters’ support, and Chris Anglin, who successfully fought to be labeled as a Republican on the ballot, got 7 percent. Forty-four percent are unsure who they would vote for come November.

The poll also asked likely voters about a few hot topic issues, including whether to abolish Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. A majority of voters (67 percent) didn’t agree with the rallying cry to abolish ICE, while 20 percent want rid of the immigration enforcement agency.

Likely voters were asked whether they approve of protestors toppling the Confederate monument Silent Sam. Seventy percent of likely voters disapproved of the protestors actions, but 20 percent approved. A slightly smaller majority — 50 percent — oppose legally moving Confederate monuments; 39 percent approve of a legal process of removal.

McCleary said some of these answers should give the Democratic Party pause.

“What I think it potentially represents a caution to the Democratic Party that the grassroots of the party is growing increasingly out of step with mainstream America,” McCleary said. “While the current dynamics are trending toward Democrats, when you take the long view you see some of the rallying cries of the left are non-starters for voters.”

Education continues to be a hot topic in North Carolina, with funding being one of the major concerns. Likely voters were asked whether the state spends too much, too little, or about right on per-pupil spending. An overwhelming 70 percent, including nearly 50 percent of Republicans, said the state spends too little, while only 16 percent said funding is at a good level.

Per-pupil spending in North Carolina is $9,172 per student, but 48 percent of likely voters guessed the amount was in the $5,000-range. Only 8 percent guessed the correct range for per-pupil spending.

“That’s probably more of a gut-driven thing,” McCleary said. “They’re inclined to think it’s too low, so when you give them the option what do they default to? The lowest possible option.

When told how much the state spends on each student, fewer likely voters (45 percent) still think the state spends too little. Twenty-four percent think the state spends enough when told the correct amount.