N.C. losing some luster
Should North Carolinians care how the state is viewed by the rest of the country?
If your answer is no, then you can stop reading now. But if you believe perception has an impact on economic development, corporate recruitment, tourism and growth in general, then you should be interested in a recent national poll by Public Policy Polling which found that North Carolina’s image has suffered a significant decline in recent years. It has a bearing on how the state conducts its business — and, by extension, on how local governments conduct theirs.
Two years ago, PPP did a series of national polls assessing the favorability of every state. At that time, North Carolina was a standout, especially in the South. It polled among the 10 most popular states, with 40 percent of respondents giving it a favorable rating and only 11 percent an unfavorable rating.
Fast-forward to the most recent poll results, released a few days ago. The state’s favorability rating has dropped to 30 percent. The share of those with an unfavorable opinion of North Carolina now stands at 23 percent. Those results “would have ranked it 40th in our national study of state popularity in 2011, rather than its top 10 popularity at that time,” PPP notes.
As you might expect, poll respondents who identified themselves as Democrats had a more unfavorable view of North Carolina than those who said they were Republicans. (And PPP is generally considered to lean left itself.) But what’s striking is that the favorability rating fell significantly even among Republicans.
Given the current tendency to view everything from an ideological perspective, it’s tempting to do that here. Democrats will blame the Republican legislative agenda. Republicans might point to a moribund economy and the preceding years of Democratic rule. Or they might blame the media, given the high-profile exposure the state has recently received over a resolution on religion, changes in ballot access laws, abortion clinic regulations and other contentious issues.
In reality, we can’t question each of the 800 or so survey respondents about the factors shaping their views. But the bottom line, for those who believe perception counts, is that the state’s national image is suffering, and that’s never a good thing. Historically, North Carolina has been known for its moderation and forward-thinking leadership in a region where such attitudes were sometimes in short supply. The perception from afar is that we’re losing touch with that legacy.