RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Since he was first elected North Carolina’s attorney general in 2017, Democrat Josh Stein has been a consistent, almost weekly presence on TV. He’s used television, newspapers and social media to promote his work on everything from the opioid crisis to clean water.

Lt. Governor Mark Robinson is serving his first term. He has a stage that goes from the pulpit to some of the most high-profile conservative events in the country. The Republican’s message often includes social issues like gay marriage and abortion.

Even with all that, neither are household names. Stein has officially declared his candidacy for governor while Robinson has given every indication he will do the same.      

“That’s one of the things I guess about a gubernatorial campaign or a US Senate campaign or a presidential campaign is that there will be a lot of money, a lot of actions trying to raise the profile,” said Martin Kifer, chair and associate professor of political science and director of High Point University polling.

A new HPU poll finds 57% of North Carolinians don’t know who Mark Robinson is and 58% don’t know who Josh Stein is. Their current elected titles were left off of the question, so as to not give a hint as to who they are.

Lack of recognition can work both ways.

“I mean that’s one of the things about not being defined relatively early is that there is a lot of chance to shape perceptions. That may be space in which people can create their own positive impressions, but it also gives the opposition a chance to define them,” Kifer said.

When it comes to state politics, people tend to pay attention to the person who is leading the state, in this case governor Roy Cooper, more than they do anyone else. But Kifer believes that will likely change as the election heats up.

“One of the things that’s going to happen just in general is that voters, especially likely voters, are going to pay attention,” Kifer said. “They know there’s going to be a presidential race coming up, they know that there’s going to be a governor’s race coming up. And they’ll start paying attention to the people, the personalities. If they’re partisans, they’ll start paying attention to who their team is putting on the ballot.”
In the same poll North Carolinians gave Governor Cooper a job approval rating of 47%, while 30% said they disapprove. Some, a total of 23%, did not offer an opinion either way.

Those polled also gave President Biden a 34% job approval rating with 52% of North Carolina residents disapproving of Biden’s job performance.