Only 40% of North Carolinians named the economy as their top issue on our most recent survey, the smallest percentage to do so since February of 2008.
In mid-October of last year it was the most cited concern of 65% of voters in the state. Six months ago it was 55%.
There are several reasons for this development. Voters may feel that the worst has passed, and believe economists who say the recession is over. Another is that Democrats, who previously overwhelmingly named it as their top issue, are moving over to health care as their main concern. In October of last year only 4% of North Carolinians said it was their top issue and in March only 5% did. That's now up to 15%, making it the second biggest concern of voters in the state.
The only other issue that's really seen its importance shoot up in the last year is education, which in October was top concern for just 4% of voters but is now cited by 11%.
It's interesting to note that despite recent increases in state taxes the same 7% of voters listed that as their biggest issue both this month and at this time last year. Of course it's possible people are folding that in with the economy, and given that tax increases were the number one reason voters cited for their unhappiness with Bev Perdue last week that does seem to be having a significant impact.
There's no doubt that the intensity of immigration as a major issue for voters in the state has declined though. In 2007 it polled in double digits but this month it's at 4% and we've had surveys where it even went as low as 2%. It's not that North Carolinians have really changed their views on immigration issues, but with President Obama in the White House it just doesn't fire up the right wing in the way it used to- they have plenty of other battles to fight that they now consider more important.
2008 basically ended up being a one issue election. Candidates may have talked about things other than the economy, but ultimately that was all voters wanted to hear about. It looks like the 2010 election will be fought out on a much broader array of issues.