News: CJ Exclusives

Poll: Voters’ trust in authorities sinks, as do Cooper’s approval ratings

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. (CJ photo by Maya Reagan)
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. (CJ photo by Maya Reagan)

A new Civitas Poll of 600 likely voters conducted between Aug. 13 and Aug. 16 produced one of the more interesting survey results in recent memory. That’s according to John Locke Foundation senior political analyst Mitch Kokai, who discussed the poll results with JLF president and chief strategy officer Donald Bryson on Thursday, Aug. 19.

The poll, by Cygnal, was conducted on behalf of the John Locke Foundation.

While Bryson cautioned that, “Polling is not predictive in nature,” he added that these results nevertheless show major issues for trust and ongoing partisan divides over the top political issues of the day.

On the issue of job approval for leading politicians at the state and federal level, President Biden is underwater with likely North Carolina voters.

Disapproval of the president’s job performance sits at 53%, up five points from June. Seven months into his term, Biden’s approval rating is just 42%, with just one in four of those polled saying they strongly approve of his work. Notably, twice as many North Carolinians strongly disapprove of Biden’s performance since in office — 48%. Vice President Kamala Harris fares even worse, with a disapproval rate of 52% and a paltry 34% approving of her performance since January.

“This poll was in the field with voters as this past weekend’s catastrophe in Afghanistan unfolded, and I am sure that that news influenced President Biden’s approval rating,” said Bryson of the results, even though the poll didn’t ask about Afghanistan specifically.

On the state side of things, Gov. Roy Cooper seems to be losing steam, and losing support for his job performance, registering a near-even approval/disapproval rating. The governor’s job approval has dropped to 45%, down four points from June and down eight points from May. For the first time in 2021, just as many North Carolinians disapprove of the job the governor is doing as those who approve – 45% each.

“The fact that he’s even at all means there’s been an erosion in his job approval and an erosion in the confidence people have in him,” says Bryson, pointing out that management of pandemic policies more than 18 months after the first state of emergency is likely dragging on the governor with voters.

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, though less known as Cooper, is faring relatively well in what is “primarily a bully pulpit position,” according to Kokai.

“There are a lot more people with a definite opinion of him who like him, than people with a definite opinion about him who don’t like him,” explains Bryson.

The trends of approval/disapproval seem to track whether voters think the nation is headed in the right or wrong direction. A majority, at 58.5%, think we are headed in the wrong direction.

Biden is the only person in the negative when it comes to trust on COVID-19 measures, while Cooper and health secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen enjoy trust from a majority of voters on issues related to COVID-19. But a significant portion of voters lacks any trust in authorities, from Cooper to Biden to presidential adviser and immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, when it comes to COVID-19 and associated policies.

“When you have numbers approaching 35 or 40% who don’t trust public health officials, you’re seeing an erosion of the government’s authority, [an erosion] of people’s perception of the government as an authority,” said Bryson.

There were definite partisan divides on most questions, but especially when it came to issues regarding COVID-19, which Kokai notes likely includes the high emphasis placed by respondents on civil liberties, as well.

While 50% of respondents believe the vaccine push comes from a genuine interest in public health and safety, a full third feel it’s being exploited to increase government control over citizens. And even if a majority find the information on COVID-19 coming from state or federal governments reliable, 42.6% say information from those sources is probably or definitely unreliable.

“That seems like a republic on the edge of revolt,” laments Bryson, noting the complete breakdown in trust of authorities for a significant segment of the population. Adding to that, for Cooper, “You can’t feel comfortable governing a state when 45% of voters don’t trust anything coming out of your mouth.”

Such mistrust in current leadership may inform the positive results for Republicans in the generic ballot test portion of the survey, with the GOP increasing its lead over Democrats on the legislative generic ballot to four points. When asked about their preference, 48% of likely voters said they will vote for a Republican for the General Assembly in 2022, and 44% said they will choose a Democrat.

The pro-Republican spread is most noticeable among those who say their preference is definite, with 40% definitely planning to choose a Republican candidate and 33% definitely planning to choose a Democrat. The overall outlook is the same for the generic congressional ballot. Republicans lead Democrats by four points, 48% to 44%.