March 12, 2021

Our latest survey shows Governor Roy Cooper losing his place as North Carolina’s most popular politician.  Read on to find out who dethroned him, but first some notes on Cooper and what it might mean for the last few years of his final term as Governor.

Governor Cooper’s popularity peaked during the height of the COVID Crisis.  Since May of 2020, the percentage of voters with a favorable opinion of the Governor dropped by about 10% while the percentage regarding him unfavorably increased by 10%.  If the Governor and his team cannot reverse or halt this trend of declining support, the Governor is in grave danger of becoming a full-fledged “lame duck” that legislators in his own party will seek to avoid associating with politically.

Cooper’s not in Andrew Cuomo or Ralph Northam territory yet but his numbers are closer to those two than to wildly popular bi-partisan governors like Charlie Baker or Larry Hogan.

We’ve tracked the legislative generic ballot in North Carolina for many years as a proxy for which political party is in favor with voters at any given time.  Historically, the parties were evenly divided but from the time it became clear Donald Trump would be the GOP nominee from President in 2016, and throughout the Trump Presidency, Democrats held a consistent 4 or 5 point advantage.

Our February poll shows a 40% to 40% tie between Republicans and Democrats in the legislative generic ballot – a reversion back to numbers more reminiscent of the pre-Trump era.

So with Roy Cooper officially displaced, who has taken up the mantle as North Carolina’s most popular politician?

Mark Robinson, North Carolina’s newly elected Lieutenant Governor.  Robinson’s positive 14-point net favorability rating leads the way among North Carolina’s political figures.

North Carolina’s most unpopular political figure?  Donald Trump.

Looking through these image ratings, we can’t help but think about the upcoming 2022 U.S. Senate election in North Carolina.

On the Democratic side, assuming Governor Cooper doesn’t take the plunge, Patrician Timmons-Goodson, Jeff Jackson and Josh Stein are all somewhat known by registered Democratic voters and relatively well-liked.  The race appears to be wide open and a candidate like former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx could easily get traction.

On the Republican side, the field settles into clear tiers.  If Dan Forest chose to seek the nomination, his favorability rating with GOP voters indicates he could walk into the nomination unless Laura Trump got in the race as rumored.  There is a clear second tier of prospective candidates on the GOP side with 3-time gubernatorial nominee Pat McCrory holding a +40 favorability rating with Republican voters and Lt. Governor Mark Robinson sporting a staggering 17:1 favorable to unfavorable rating and an impressive net +31 favorable rating with GOP voters.

The third tier includes announced candidate Mark Walker and rumored candidates including Congressmen Ted Budd and Dan Bishop, Speaker of the House Tim Moore and Senate President Phil Berger.  Like the leading Democratic prospects, these Republicans are all somewhat known by registered Republican voters and relatively well-liked but lag behind the candidates in tiers one and two.

Finally, we asked voters if they agreed with Senator Richard Burr’s surprise vote to convict President Trump after his impeachment trial.  A slim majority (51%-45%) backed Burr’s decision.