HPU Poll: Likely Democratic and Republican Primary Voters Staunchly Divided on the Direction of the Country

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HIGH POINT, N.C., Feb. 9, 2016 – The most recent High Point University Poll has found that Democratic and Republican primary voters will likely cast their ballots with very different concerns about North Carolina and their country as well as contrasting views of their elected officials.

A majority (54 percent) of likely Democratic primary voters say they think that the country is going in the right direction, versus only 10 percent of likely Republican primary voters who would say so.

By huge margins, likely Democratic voters say that they approve of the job President Barack Obama is doing (84 percent), and likely Republican voters disapprove of the job Obama is doing (91 percent).

Similarly, 74 percent of likely Republican voters approve of the job Gov. Pat McCrory is doing, compared to 69 percent of likely Democratic voters who disapprove.

Almost exactly half of the likely Republican voters who responded to the HPU Poll approved of the job U.S. Sen. Richard Burr is doing compared to only about a quarter (23 percent) of likely Democratic voters. Consistent with other HPU Polls, however, more than a quarter of likely voters on both sides of the partisan aisle did not express a view one way or the other.

These partisan views of the elected officials are held by likely voters at a time when overall trust in government itself is low. More than a third (39 percent) of likely Democratic voters and more than half (56 percent) of likely Republican voters said they only once in a while or never trust government officials.

“Thinking about the results of this poll, we see deep partisan differences between groups of likely primary voters,” said Brian McDonald, associate director of the HPU Poll and adjunct professor. “Likely Republican and Democratic voters have very different views of the direction of the country and split sharply on the performance of government officials. These stark divisions on their views of the country, the state, and elected officials show that Democratic and Republican primary voters are carrying very different attitudes to the ballot box.”

The issues that are most important to the likely primary voters differ according to their chosen primary, as well. For example, when asked what they thought was the most important problem facing the country today, more likely Republican voters chose national security (28 percent) than any other issue, followed by government ineffectiveness (17 percent) and the economy (16 percent). Likely Democratic voters, on the other hand, chose education as the top issue (29 percent), though the second issue was the same. Twenty-two percent chose government ineffectiveness.

Likely primary voters agreed to some extent that the most important problem in North Carolina was education with 44 percent of likely Democratic voters and 25 percent of likely Republican voters choosing it. Other important issues for likely Republican voters included the economy, immigration, health care and taxes, while likely Democratic voters chose health care, the economy and government ineffectiveness with some frequency.

“We have been observing for some time that people are expressing frustration with and lack of trust of government at many levels,” said Dr. Martin Kifer, director of the HPU Poll and assistant professor of political science. “This has pushed the issue of government ineffectiveness higher in the minds of these frequent voters – the most active of our citizens – than issues that are normally very important to them.”

Country direction - Rep vs Dem

Likely Primary Voters – Country Direction (February 2016)

Do you think things in this country are generally going in the right direction or do you feel things have gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track?

Likely Democratic Primary Voters

Right direction – 54 percent

Wrong direction – 35 percent

(Don’t know/refused) – 11 percent

(Likely Democratic primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 478 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

Likely Republican Primary Voters

Right direction – 10 percent

Wrong direction – 90 percent

(Don’t know/refused) – 1 percent

(Likely Republican primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 477 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

Obama job approval - Rep vs Dem

Likely Primary Voters – Presidential Job Approval (February 2016)

Do you approve or disapprove of the way that Barack Obama is handling his job as president?

Likely Democratic Primary Voters

Approve – 84 percent

Disapprove – 12 percent

(Don’t know/refused) – 4 percent

(Likely Democratic primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 478 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

Likely Republican Primary Voters

Approve – 8 percent

Disapprove – 91 percent

(Don’t know/refused) – 1 percent

(Likely Republican primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 477 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

Likely Primary Voters – North Carolina Governor Job Approval (February 2016)

Do you approve or disapprove of the way that Pat McCrory is handling his job as Governor?

Likely Democratic Primary Voters

Approve – 21 percent

Disapprove – 69 percent

(Don’t know/refused) – 10 percent

(Likely Democratic primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 478 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

Likely Republican Primary Voters

Approve – 74 percent

Disapprove – 13 percent

(Don’t know/refused) – 12 percent

(Likely Republican primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 477 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

Likely Primary Voters – U.S. Senator Job Approval (February 2016)

Do you approve or disapprove of the way that Richard Burr is handling his job as United States Senator?

Likely Democratic Primary Voters

Approve – 23 percent

Disapprove – 49 percent

(Don’t know/refused) – 28 percent

(Likely Democratic primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 478 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

Likely Republican Primary Voters

Approve – 49 percent

Disapprove – 21 percent

(Don’t know/refused) – 29 percent

(Likely Republican primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 477 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

Likely Voters – Trust in Elected Officials (February 2016)

How often do you think you can trust government officials? Would you say you can trust them always, a lot of the time, about half the time, once in a while, or never?

Likely Democratic Primary Voters

Always – 2 percent

A lot of the time – 12 percent

About half the time – 44 percent

Once in a while – 32 percent

Never – 7 percent

(Don’t know/refused) – 3 percent

(Likely Democratic primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 478 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

Likely Republican Primary Voters

Always – 1 percent

A lot of the time – 6 percent

About half the time – 36 percent

Once in a while – 41  percent

Never – 15 percent

(Don’t know/refused) – 1 percent

(Likely Republican primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 477 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

Likely Voters – Most Important Problem in U.S. (February 2016)

Now I am going to read a list of possible problems facing this country today. Please wait for me to read the entire list, then tell me which ONE of these problems is the MOST important facing the country today. (Note: The order in which the responses were presented was randomized)

Likely Democratic Primary Voters

National security – 10 percent

The budget deficit – 7 percent

Health care – 13 percent

Education – 29 percent

Immigration – 5 percent

The economy – 13 percent

Government ineffectiveness – 22 percent

(Don’t know/refused) – 2 percent

(Likely Democratic primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 478 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

Likely Republican Primary Voters

National security – 28 percent

The budget deficit – 13 percent

Health care – 11 percent

Education – 5 percent

Immigration – 8 percent

The economy – 16 percent

Government ineffectiveness – 17 percent

(Don’t know/refused) – 2 percent

(Likely Republican primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 477 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

Likely Voters – Most Important Problem in North Carolina (February 2016)

Now I am going to read a list of possible problems facing the state of North Carolina today. Please wait for me to read the entire list, then tell me which ONE of these problems is the MOST important facing the state of North Carolina today. (Note: The order in which the responses were presented was randomized)

Likely Democratic Primary Voters

Transportation and infrastructure – 5 percent

The size of the state budget – 5 percent

Taxes – 4 percent

Health care – 12 percent

Education – 44 percent

Immigration – 2 percent

The economy – 10 percent

Government ineffectiveness – 11 percent

Policing/law enforcement – 4 percent

(Don’t know/refused) – 2 percent

(Likely Democratic primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 478 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

Likely Republican Primary Voters

Transportation and infrastructure – 8 percent

The size of the state budget – 2 percent

Taxes – 10 percent

Health care – 12 percent

Education – 25 percent

Immigration – 12 percent

The economy – 15 percent

Government ineffectiveness – 9 percent

Policing/law enforcement – 4 percent

(Don’t know/refused) – 2 percent

(Likely Republican primary voters (North Carolina) sample surveyed January 30 – February 4, n = 477 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

The most recent HPU Poll was fielded by live interviewers at the High Point University Survey Research Center (SRC) calling on Jan. 30 – Feb. 4, 2016. SRC Interviewers completed interviews with 478 likely Democratic primary voters and 477 likely Republican primary voters on landline and cell phones. The SRC identified respondents using a Registration Based Sample (RBS) where all respondents passed a screen gauging likelihood of voting in March 2016 and selecting from a database of registered voters such that respondents who had registered prior to 2008 had voted in the 2008 and 2012 presidential primaries as well as the 2014 general election; respondents registered between 2008 and 2012 had voted in the 2012 presidential primary and 2014 general election; respondents who had registered between 2012 and 2014 voted in the 2014 primary or the 2014 general election; and the remainder of the sample had registered between 2014 and 2016. The Survey Research Center contracted with Survey Sampling International to acquire this sample. Each sample of likely voters has an estimated margin of sampling error of approximately 4.5 percentage points. The data is weighted toward population estimates for age, gender, and race. In addition to sampling error, factors such as question wording and other methodological choices in conducting survey research can introduce additional error into the findings of opinion polls. Details from this survey are available at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/files/2016/02/43memoA.pdf.

Further results and methodological details from the most recent survey and past studies can be found at the Survey Research Center website at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/. The materials online include past press releases as well as memos summarizing the findings (including approval ratings) for each poll since 2010.

The HPU Poll reports methodological details in accordance with the standards set out by AAPOR’s Transparency Initiative, and the HPU Survey Research Center is a Charter Member of the Initiative. For more information, see

http://transparency.aapor.org/index.php/transparency.

You can follow the HPU Poll on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HPUSurveyCenter.

Dr. Martin Kifer, assistant professor of political science, serves as the director of the HPU Poll, and Brian McDonald serves as the associate director of the HPU Poll.

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