These NC politicians make a lot of news, but most voters can’t identify them. Can you?

They hold the highest positions of power in North Carolina, and make decisions every day that affect the state and the more than 10 million people who call it home. Some are running for the state’s highest elected offices right now.

But when voters were asked to identify the state’s top political leaders by their names and photos, the vast majority didn’t know who they were looking at.

Indeed, only Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat who was twice elected to the state’s highest elected office in 2016 and 2020, was recognized by a majority of voters polled by Meredith College earlier this month. About 80% of the 800 registered voters who were polled correctly identified Cooper with his photo. Fifteen percent couldn’t identify him.

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who has generated more headlines than the average politician since being elected in 2020, was identified by 43% of voters. A full 44% couldn’t ID him.

None of the other politicians whose photos were shown to voters — House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate leader Phil Berger, Attorney General Josh Stein, State Treasurer Dale Folwell, and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker — were recognized by more than 20% of voters who were polled.

When it came to these political leaders, nearly 70% of respondents didn’t even make a guess; they simply chose “don’t know” as their selection.

“Given how powerful these political figures are in North Carolina, it is somewhat disconcerting, but not surprising, that most people in the state do not know what these people look like,” David McLennan, director of the Meredith Poll, said in an analysis released along with the poll on Monday. “The good news for most of them is that they can go to the grocery store and not be bothered while shopping.”

Can you identify these politicians just by looking at their photos?

Gov. Roy Cooper presides over the monthly Council of State meeting Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2022 at the NCDOT building in Raleigh.
Gov. Roy Cooper presides over the monthly Council of State meeting Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2022 at the NCDOT building in Raleigh.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat who has served since 2017, will leave the office at the end of 2024, since he is term-limited and can’t serve a third consecutive term.

Cooper was correctly identified by 80% of respondents, while 15% said they didn’t know who he was.

A lawsuit against the North Carolina Governor’s School cites findings from a task force formed by Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson.
A lawsuit against the North Carolina Governor’s School cites findings from a task force formed by Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson.

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a Republican, has served since 2021 and in April launched his 2024 campaign for governor.

Robinson was correctly identified by 43% of respondents, while 44% said they didn’t know who he was.

House Speaker Tim Moore the House floor as lawmakers get ready to hold the first of several votes on the budget as Thursday morning, Sept. 21, 2023 at the General Assembly.
House Speaker Tim Moore the House floor as lawmakers get ready to hold the first of several votes on the budget as Thursday morning, Sept. 21, 2023 at the General Assembly.

House Speaker Tim Moore, a Republican, has served as leader of the House GOP caucus since 2015, and in the House since 2002.

Moore was correctly identified by 13% of respondents, while 71% said they didn’t know who he was.

Senate leader Phil Berger addresses his colleagues, explaining why he is now leading the passage of Medicaid expansion after many years of opposing the legislation on Wednesday, June 1, 2022 at the General Assembly in Raleigh, N.C.
Senate leader Phil Berger addresses his colleagues, explaining why he is now leading the passage of Medicaid expansion after many years of opposing the legislation on Wednesday, June 1, 2022 at the General Assembly in Raleigh, N.C.

Senate leader Phil Berger, a Republican, has served as leader of the Senate GOP caucus since 2004, and as Senate president pro tempore since 2011.

Berger was correctly identified by 16% of respondents, while 73% said they didn’t know who he was.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein speaks during an afternoon news conference at the State of North Carolina’s Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, March 31, 2020.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein speaks during an afternoon news conference at the State of North Carolina’s Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, has served in the role since 2017. In January, Stein launched his 2024 campaign for governor.

Stein was correctly identified by 19% of respondents, while 68% said they didn’t know who he was.

North Carolina Treasurer Dale Folwell
North Carolina Treasurer Dale Folwell

State Treasurer Dale Folwell, a Republican who has served in that position since 2017, entered the 2024 race for governor in March.

Folwell was correctly identified by 12% of respondents, while 71% said they didn’t know who he was.

Mark Walker speaks during a press conference outside the N.C. Legislative building Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023. A group of local residents from Rockingham and Nash counties, two of the four counties that could host new casinos if the Republican proposal advances this session, spoke out against the plan during a press conference outside the Legislative Building, just hours before the House Republican Caucus planned to meet to discuss the idea.

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, a Republican who represented North Carolina’s 6th congressional district in the U.S. House from 2015 to 2021, entered the 2024 race for governor in May.

Walker was correctly identified by 11% of respondents, while 70% said they didn’t know who he was.

Other findings from the Meredith Poll

Voters were polled Sept. 16 through 19. Among the other findings in the poll:

  • Just over a third of respondents, 35%, said they were satisfied with the direction of North Carolina today. Meanwhile, 54% said they were not satisfied, and 11% said they didn’t know.

  • The poll, which asked a series of questions about equality for women, found that 61% of respondents said the U.S. needs to “continue to make changes” to give women equal rights to men, while 30% said the country has “made most of the changes needed” to give women equal rights. Nine percent said they didn’t know.

Approval ratings for Biden, Cooper

  • Asked about President Joe Biden, 40% said they approved or strongly approved of the way he is handling his job as president, while 57% said they disapproved or strongly disapproved. Three percent said they didn’t know.

  • When the same question was asked about Gov. Roy Cooper, 57% said they approved or strongly approved, while 37% said they disapproved or strongly disapproved, and 7% said they didn’t know.

Gov. Roy Cooper shakes hands with Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson as House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Leader Phil Berger look on before Cooper delivered his State of the State address to a joint session of the N.C. General Assembly on Monday, March 6, 2023.
Gov. Roy Cooper shakes hands with Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson as House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Leader Phil Berger look on before Cooper delivered his State of the State address to a joint session of the N.C. General Assembly on Monday, March 6, 2023.

Top issues for voters going into 2024

  • Asked if they had to pick a single issue they wanted candidates to talk about more on the campaign trail, 40% of respondents said the economy, 14% said abortion/reproductive rights, 14% said immigration, 11% said gun rights/restrictions, 9% said crime, 8% said some other issue, and 3% said they didn’t know.

Views on NC’s new 12-week abortion law

  • Asked about the new abortion law that GOP lawmakers enacted over a veto by Cooper, that bans most abortions after 12 weeks and provides exceptions for rape, incest, fetal anomalies and the life of the mother, 47% said they approved or strongly approved of the new law. On the other hand, 45% said they disapproved or strongly disapproved. Eight percent said they didn’t know.

  • Going into next year’s election, 67% said the new law was a very important or somewhat important motivating factor for them to vote, while 27% said it was somewhat unimportant or not important at all. Six percent said they didn’t know.

Former president Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Wilmington International Airport on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022.
Former president Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Wilmington International Airport on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022.

Top GOP and Democratic choices for president, governor

  • Of the 350 respondents who said they were most likely to vote in next year’s GOP primary, 51% said they were most likely to vote for former President Donald Trump, while 13% chose Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. None of the other candidates received double-digit support, with the two next most-chosen being entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy (8%) and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (6%).

  • Asked who they were most likely to vote for in the gubernatorial primary, 34% said Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, while 7% said former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker. State Treasurer Dale Folwell, former N.C. Sen. Andy Wells and retired health care executive Jesse Thomas all got 3% each. But half of the respondents said they didn’t know who they would vote for (44%) or chose someone else (6%).

  • Of the 308 respondents who said they were most likely to vote in the Democratic primary, 33% chose Attorney General Josh Stein and 11% picked recently retired N.C. Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan. More than half said they didn’t know (46%) or chose someone else (10%).