Now that the General Assembly is back in session, legislators may want to look at a new poll that shows just how much the issue of teacher pay matters to voters.

At this point in time, the North Carolina General Assembly has an approval rating that’s about the same as the United States Congress.

And, as you can probably guess, that’s not a good thing.

According to poll results released Wednesday by Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling, only 16 percent of North Carolina voters like the job the General Assembly is doing. Fifty-six percent disapprove.

“What those numbers reflect is that voters are still extremely unhappy about what happened in the long session last summer,” says Public Policy Polling Director Tom Jensen.

Jensen told WCHL that education cuts and teacher pay are at the top of the list of things that make survey respondents most angry.

By 54-to-36, voters said that teacher pay increases are more important than cutting taxes.

“The General Assembly is talking about doing a teacher pay increase, but it would be pretty small” says Jensen. “What we find is that North Carolinians would really like to see a substantive pay increase for teachers.

“Fifty percent of voters want at least a five percent increase; 59 percent want at least a four percent increase; and 76 percent want, at least, a three percent increase.”

He adds that the message for Democrats running for office this November is pretty clear.

“We asked people how they’d vote if there was a legislative election, today,” he says. “Forty-three percent said they’d vote Democratic. Forty-three percent said they’d vote Republican.

“If the state remains that evenly divided, Republicans are going to keep pretty strong control of the legislature. The teacher-pay issue is the kind of thing that Democrats may have to be able to use, to really pick up some seats this fall.”