November 17, 2022

RALEIGH – With Republicans having secured at least a one seat majority of the U.S. House at the time of this release – and missing the mark in capturing the Senate – many are trying to understand why the anticipated red wave never materialized at the federal level. 

Although the economy and concerns surrounding inflation remain top issues in the minds of voters, the latest Civitas Poll has found that Democrats were able to capture voter confidence on other critical issues that matter to the electorate, such as crime, healthcare, the environment, and abortion.  

This appears to have diluted voter preferences for GOP’s economic policies. When asked whether Democrats and Republicans made a compelling case for their plans and vision for the country, a clear plurality of voters placed greater confidence in Democratic congressional candidates. Of those surveyed, 48.3% stated they believed Democrats communicated their plan and vision “well,” compared to 39% of those who asserted Republicans did.  

That confidence in Democratic messaging has led to a clear and discernable uptick in optimism about the direction of the country. While a majority of voters still believe the country is on the wrong track (62.6%), the percentage of voters who believe the country is on the right track increased to 32% – up ten points from last month.  

This poll, which included a sampling of election-day voters (84.7%), mail-in voters (9.6%), and early in-person (5.7%), found marginal improvements in approval ratings for both President Biden and Governor Cooper. 

Although voter confidence is still underwater, this improvement in optimism can be attributed to a shift in opinion from self-identified moderates and liberals. The percentage of liberals who believe the country is on the right track increased to 67% from October’s 42%, and moderates are up to 46% compared to last month’s 32%. 

“Overall, Republicans in North Carolina had a better night than Republicans across the nation, but they definitely left points on the field,” said John Locke Foundation President Donald Bryson. “It seems like Republicans may have cost themselves a lot of votes due to vague messaging about their policy agenda, such as with the Congressional Republican Commitment to America plan.” 

Pundits, such as Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, have criticized the Commitment to America for its vague policy goals for 2023. 

When it comes to the economy, North Carolinians’ outlook remains negative. A majority of voters believe the American economy is currently in “poor” shape (52.5%), an even larger share believe the United States is current in a recession (59%). Voters are seemingly unconvinced things will get better soon, as only about a quarter of participants believe inflation will get better in the next 6 months.  

North Carolinians’ outlook on the housing market is even less optimistic, with 83% of respondents stating they are concerned about the current price of housing. Nearly three out of four participants said they do not believe average people can afford to buy a house in their area. A plurality of survey takers (47.1%) said they would support “building more houses, condos, and apartments in [their] community if it meant it would be easier for people to afford housing.” 

Bryson continued, “North Carolinians are very concerned about housing prices. As more people move into the state and the Federal Reserve continues to increase interest rates, those concerns will likely only get worse – unless builders can quickly create significantly more housing.”  

The poll results mirrored those of the midterm election, with 50.7% of respondents having voted for Republican Ted Budd, and 47.1% of respondents voting for Democrat Cheri Beasley. When asked why participants voted for their candidate, a noteworthy number of Cheri Beasley voters attributed their support for her as a protest vote against Donald Trump. Slightly over 10% of Beasley voters mentioned Donald Trump in their reasoning for their Senate vote, compared to less than one percent of Budd voters.  

Over a quarter of North Carolina voters admitted to splitting their ballot. While 35.6% of respondents voted for only Republican candidates and 34.8% voted only for Democrats, 27.5% of survey participants said they voted for candidates of both parties in November. Men were more likely to split their ticket than women, with nearly a third of men voting for more than one party on their ballot. 

While Republicans and Democrats split North Carolina’s congressional delegation evenly, only 39% of respondents think Republicans did a good job explaining their visions for Congress, compared to over 48% believing Democrats did a good job. Candidates’ direct messages to voters could become increasingly important, as few North Carolinians state say they have faith in mainstream media. Over 65% of respondents said they had little or no confidence in the mass media, with a mere 5% stating they have a “great deal” of confidence. North Carolinians’ most trusted source of news is newspapers (38.4% confidence), while their least trusted source of news is social media (11.4% confidence).