Friday, April 24, 2009

North vs. South (Carolinas, that is)

Through the very kind folks at Elon University's Poll, we have some early indicators as to how President Obama is faring in the Carolinas, and beyond that, some interesting perspectives on how residents in the Carolinas see national issues--and it's not always eye-to-eye (this beyond the token "who does one refer to when one says 'Carolina' in the context of college sports").

Anyway, as to be expected based on last fall's general election returns, President Obama has a higher approval rating in the North (56% approve or strongly approve) than in the South (47.4% approve or strongly approve), with a combined approval rating of both states at 52.3% (approve/strongly approve).

Ironically, though, sizable portions (49.5%) of both Carolinians disapprove of his handling of the economy (personality seems to trump policy at this point, as matched in some national polls). But when broken down between the sister states, Tar Heels give him a 50-44% approve/disapprove rating, compared to Palmetto residents who give him a 40/55% approve/disapprove rating.

Again combining residents, a majority of Carolinians believe Obama is trying to do too much (50%) versus 38.7% who believe he is focused on the right number of issues. But broken down, 54.8% of Southern Carolinians feel that Obama is doing too much, versus 46.5% of Northern Carolinians.

Along with some other interesting numbers, two things really stick out to me in the poll.

First, when asked "do you think the [Republican Party or the Democratic Party] is doing a better job of managing the economy?", respondents in both states said:

  • Democratic Party: 36.7%
  • Republican Party: 19%
  • Neither party: 33.9%

But when broken down within both states, South Carolinians, who should be more supportive of the GOP, answered:

  • Democratic Party: 34%
  • Republican: 19.6%
  • Neither party: 35.3%

For the Republican Party to garner such low ratings is kind of surprising in the Palmetto State, but this could be due (partly, I would say) to the fact that the state has the second highest unemployment rate under a currently unpopular Republican governor.

The other interesting tidbit is that while the economy and jobs & unemployment (two separate issues) garnered the top two spots in "the most important issue facing your state," North Carolinians ranked those two higher than South Carolinians, while Southerns ranking elementary and secondary education (at 14.8% of respondents) twice as high as Northerns (only 6.7% of Tar Heel respondents said it was the most important issue).

If education continues to be a critical issue, then that may be an opening for exploitation by the Democrats in South Carolina, once ranked as an endangered species.

The poll was conducted by Hunter Bacot and his staff at the Center for Public Opinion Polling, part of Elon University's Institute for Politics and Public Affairs. The margin of error (MoE) for the overall poll is +/- 3.9%, with NC's MoE +/- 5.3 and SC's MoE at +/- 5.7%.