With the special legislative session to consider overriding Governor Pat McCrory’s vetoes, the final actions of this year’s “long session” of the NC General Assembly is coming to close.
And with the dust settling from the legislative actions, it’s worth taking stock of the reaction of public opinion toward the chief executive, especially in comparison to his predecessor.
While McCrory can claim a more “approving” public opinion than his predecessor Bev Perdue at the end of their first summer in office, it is striking that they both found a comparable majority of the public disapproving.
Using the approval/disapproval findings from Public Policy Polling in Raleigh, a left-leaning polling firm, one can compare the monthly numbers from the time of each governor’s inauguration to the end of the summer period, when the legislature typically left the capital.
For Governor Perdue, her approval started at 60 percent, with only 24 percent disapproving of her performance within her first month. But that approval rating went downhill fast, especially across partisan lines.
One month later, Perdue’s approval had dropped to 43 percent, with 32 percent disapproving of her. By August, her approval rating was 27 percent, with over half (52 percent) expressing their disapproval.
While Governor McCrory’s numbers have not seen the swing from the highs of 60 down into the mid-20s, the dog-days of summer have taken a similar toll on his approval/disapproval ratings as well.
McCrory kept a mid-to-high-40s approval rating in his first five months in office, but his disapproval ratings climbed from 19 percent in January to 38 percent in May. Then, in the span of three months, he saw his disapproval climb to over a majority (51 percent in August), while his approval fell to 39 percent.
One aspect that differentiates McCrory from his predecessor is the partisan leanings within the disapproval numbers.
For Perdue, her disapproval among Republicans was profound, and only got worse as her first year progressed.
Perdue began with nearly half of Republicans disapproving of her, and it continued to climb into the mid-70s. But she faired just as poorly not only with independents, hitting a 60 percent disapproval in May, but also with her own party base, garnering 40 percent disapproval among Democrats in July.
For McCrory, he actually began with only a 19 percent disapproval rating in his first poll, and it is remarkable that so few Democrats (only 26 percent) disapproved of him at that point.
But with the polarization that the NC General Assembly generated among partisans, that honeymoon was history within a month with 50 percent of Democrats expressing disapproval in February, and their disapproval has settled into the same range that Perdue saw from Republicans.
One distinct difference between the two governors in their first year in office appears to be the support for McCrory by his GOP base, with only 20 percent disapproving compared to Perdue’s dismal disapproval by her own party of mid-30 to 40s.
What appears to be constant between the two governors is the distaste by independent voters. While Perdue faired worse earlier than McCrory has, they both have reached a similar point of nearly 50 percent disapproval among independent voters.
While the Perdue-McCrory gap is pretty noticeable among independents expressing their disapproval, the convergence in August, after the dust of the legislative sessions had settled, is pretty striking.
Granted, trying to read into future polling results for McCrory based on the trendline for the past incumbent is always dangerous; but the hope for the current occupant of the governor’s mansion should be that he can rebuild his appeal among independents.
What may be more likely, I dare suspect, is the mirroring effect of what happened with Perdue and GOP voters in her subsequent time in office: Now, McCrory may have fallen too far out of favor with Democrats.