CHAPEL HILL – We never like to hear that North Carolina is being viewed in a negative light nationally, overshadowing the progressive efforts we’ve made locally. Recently, though, it seems our state can’t stay out of the spotlight, and for reasons many are not pleased about.

Chapel Hillian Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling in Raleigh feared that this negative press, sparked by policies rolling through the Republican-led General Assembly this session, will hurt the state’s business climate.

“We’re getting made fun of on the Daily Show, getting made fun of on the Colbert Reports, that sort of thing. You combine that with the more serious fact of getting chided by the New York Times, it seems like every week there’s a new thing getting a lot of attention where people outside the state are really sort of making fun of North Carolina,” Jensen said.

The New York Times published an editorial last week on the state recent policies with the headline: “The Decline of North Carolina.” 

“Ultimately if you get a reputation as a yokel state where the government is kind of crazy and that sort of thing, that’s bad for business recruitment and it makes businesses not want to move here and create jobs for the state,” Jensen said.

Last year, N.C. was ranked No. 4 on CNBC’s “America’s Top State’s for Business,” but this year dropped eight spots to No. 12 on the list. N.C. had previously been on the list each year since it was started in 2007.

“I think that’s one of the first signs that people outside of North Carolina sort of are waking up to the fact that North Carolina is getting extreme,” Jensen said. “That particular thing [NC dropping out of top 10 states for business] I think that maybe why you see the Republicans’ poll number getting so bad.”

Jensen explained that there is increasing dissatisfaction with the Republican majority in the House and Senate, driven by the less than transparent manner in which the abortion restriction bill was pushed through both houses. Only 34 percent of voters support the proposal, while 47 percent are opposed. 80 percent of voters think it’s inappropriate to combine abortion legislation with bills about motorcycle safety or Sharia Law. Those numbers are based on a PPP survey of 600 state voters between July 12 and July 14.

Jensen said there’s also been a major shift in voter opinion polls rating the job that N.C. Governor Pat McCrory is doing.

“This is the first time that we have ever found Governor Pat McCrory with a negative approval rating. Only 40 percent of the voters approve of the job he’s doing. 49 percent disapprove, and that’s a net 15 percent decline from last month.”

The numbers suggest that the Moral Monday protests against the policies of the General Assembly are viewed positively by a majority of North Carolinians. 45 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of the demonstrations whereas only 40 percent disapprove, according to Jensen.

The protests have caught the attention of national media outlets, such as MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN, who have sent camera crews to cover the weekly peaceful rallies that have resulted in more than 800 arrests.

“Nothing like this has ever happened in North Carolina,” Jensen said. “I think we’ve always been thought of as a pretty centrist but forward moving state that, especially more than any other states in the South, has been willing to move forward on key issues. What’s happened over the last two and a half years, but especially over the last six months, is something that’s very new for us.”

The 2012 election resulted in a Republican governor and a Republican-controlled General Assembly for only the second time in 140 years, but, Jensen said this could change in the next election.

“And when you ask people, ‘If there were a legislative election today, what party would you vote for?’ Democrats have a nine point lead, 51 percent to 42 percent, which is the biggest lead we have ever found for them on that measure,” Jensen said.

To view the full report by the PPP, click below: