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The 2022 midterm elections are the first of the Biden era. They're also the first since the 2020 census, which means there are new congressional districts. There are U.S. Senate races in the Carolinas as well, along with many state and local races.

Poll: North Carolina voters energized for midterms, but pessimistic about state of politics

Early Voting Site in Wake County, on Thursday, Oct. 20, the first day of one-stop, in-person voting for the 2022 midterms.jpg
Rusty Jacobs, WUNC
An early voting site in Wake County, on Thursday, Oct. 20, the first day of one-stop, in-person voting for the 2022 midterms.

Voter enthusiasm is high in North Carolina with less than a week to go before Election Day for this year's midterms. But a recent survey from Meredith College shows spirits are low when it comes to the state of politics here in North Carolina and across the country.

The poll, conducted over the last week of October, showed more than 87% of the 724 respondents indicated they were likely to vote.

Broken down by registration status, over 70% of Democrats and Republicans indicated they were very likely to vote, with the number lower — at 55% — for unaffiliated voters.

"Each side has got its motivating policy issues," said David McLennan, a political science professor and the director of the Meredith College poll, referring to what is driving this year's voter enthusiasm.

In the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that overturned Roe v. Wade and upended 50 years of precedence protecting a constitutional right to abortion, reproductive rights are a rallying point for Democrats and other left-leaning voters.

But the economy and concerns over inflation are firing up Republicans and other voters on the right.

McLennan says that competing issues aside, it's intense antipathy between Republicans and Democrats that is driving the high rates of enthusiasm.

"People really want to go out and beat the other team," McLennan said.

The Meredith Poll also found a majority of voters are feeling demoralized by all the partisan tribalism. More than 80% of the poll's respondents said they feel political polarization is worse than in the past. And barely more than 14.2% think it will get better.

According to almost 67% of respondents polled, a viable third party would govern the country more effectively than the two major parties.

Despite some disillusionment with the entrenched two-party system, voters are still planning on participating in this year's midterms.

"People think, 'I want to win in the midterms elections of 2022 but I'm not real happy with how the country is so divided,'" McLennan said.

Overall, older voters showed more intense enthusiasm for turning out than younger voters. Almost 82% of respondents aged 57-75 said they were very likely to vote this year; whereas 40%, the greatest number of 18-to-24-year-old voters surveyed said they were only somewhat likely to vote.

But McLennan said he still thinks younger voters could be a key factor in this year's midterms.

McLennan said young voters increased their turnout in 2018, the last midterms, and that if they do so again this year, by just 4% or 5%, they could make the difference in some tight races, like the 13th Congressional District showdown between Republican Bo Hines and Democrat Wiley Nickel.

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Rusty Jacobs is WUNC's Voting and Election Integrity Reporter.