Wednesday, 15 May 2019 10:37

Poll shows voters concerned about environment, education spending

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RALEIGH — Most North Carolina voters think the media has covered Robert Mueller’s investigation too much, but a majority also approve of Mueller’s performance as special counsel.

The data comes from the latest Civitas Institute statewide survey. The conservative public policy organization released its findings Tuesday, May 14, during a luncheon with special guest Donna King, host of Triangle’s Morning News on WPTF News Radio.

Harper Polling conducted the statewide survey from May 2 to May 5. Using a live-caller model, surveyors reached 500 likely voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.38%.

The survey asked a series of questions related to national and state politics, as well as how people felt about the direction in which the country and North Carolina are heading.

A little more than 50% of the state’s likely voters say the country is on the wrong track, while 39% say the United States is heading in the right direction. Conversely, 41% say North Carolina is heading in the right direction; 38% say the state is on the wrong track.

Typically, King said, when people are happy with the economy they’re happy with their elected officials and the direction of the country. Yet despite the strong economy, a majority of respondents think the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction.

“To me this means it’s about news coverage,” King said. “I think what you’re seeing is people are seeing a lot of protests, seeing the rise of socialism and AOC, and seeing things that concern them.”

Conversely, King said, North Carolina hasn’t gotten as much negative coverage lately.

“People are more optimistic and are happier with what is happening in North Carolina versus nationally, which I think speaks to what they are seeing in news coverage,” King said. “We’re not seeing as much news coverage of unrest. Moral Mondays aren’t going on every week. People are feeling a little more stabilized because North Carolina’s economy is going so well.”

Approval ratings for Gov. Roy Cooper continue to be higher than those of President Trump. Fifty-six percent of respondents approved of Cooper’s job performance, and 29% disapprove. Trump’s approval and disapproval ratings are even — 47%.

Mueller investigation

A few questions from the poll focused on Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Fifty percent of respondents approved of Mueller’s job performance, but just 22% disapproved.

How Attorney General William Barr handled the Mueller investigation earned him a disapproval rating of 41%; 36% approved of how the attorney general’s handled the investigation.

While Mueller’s job approval is above water, 47% of respondents thought the media paid too much attention to the investigation. Only 20% thought the media spent the right amount of time covering the investigation, while 19% believed too little time was spent on the subject. Fifteen percent were unsure.

King said people were likely getting fatigued over the constant coverage of the Mueller investigation. She likened it to how the media covered the investigations into the Clinton administration.

Environment

A majority of respondents think the state of the environment, in North Carolina and the United States, has worsened over the past 10 years.

The natural environment in North Carolina is less clean than it was 10 years ago, 44% of respondents say. Thirty percent said the natural environment is more clean now, and 9% say it’s about the same.

More respondents said the natural environment across the United States is worse off than it was 10 years ago, with 54% saying it’s less clean today. Twenty-six percent say the natural environment across the country is more clean today than it was 10 years ago; 5% say it’s about the same.

Donald Bryson, president of the Civitas Institute, said despite all the environmental programs and regulations people think the environment is less clean than it was a decade ago. He blames part of the disconnect on media coverage.

“The environment is like the economy; people only hear about it when something goes wrong,” Bryson said.

King said coverage over GenX water contamination probably contributed to negative feelings toward the state of the natural environment. The word “clean” wasn’t defined in the poll, so respondents had to find their own definition of what its means to have a clean environment.

The Green New Deal got a shout-out in the poll, although plurality of respondents were unsure about how they feel about the legislation. While 36% opposed the legislation and 25% favored it, 39% said they were unsure.

“The Green New Deal question shows there is a soft partisan divide on the issue. The opposition is strong among Republicans, voters who choose a Republican on the generic ballot for Congress, and conservatives,” Bryson said in a news release. “Meanwhile, support is relatively weak among Democrats, voters who want a Democrat on the generic Congressional ballot, and liberals.”

Education

On May 1, thousands of teachers took to the streets of downtown Raleigh for the N.C. Association of Educators teachers’ march. Findings from the May 14 Civitas Poll suggests fewer people were aware of the event, as compared to last year’s march.

A little more than 70% said they were aware of the NCAE teacher march; 29% said they didn’t know about it. The march and rally resulted in 34 school districts closing so teachers could participate in the event. A majority of respondents — 54% — viewed this decision as favorable, compared to 36% who opposed the move. Favorability toward the school districts closing fell along party lines. Democrats were more like to view the decision favorable, as compared to Republicans.

Most respondents were unsure how much money per student would be adequate to educate that child for a year. Sixty-one percent said they were unsure,13% said more than $11,000 would be adequate, and 7% said anywhere between $9,000 to $11,000.

The state spends more than $9,400 on per-pupil spending, but 55% of respondents said it isn’t enough. Only 29% said it was enough money to spend on a per-student basis.