Sunday, November 5, 2017

UPDATED: Charlotte's Mayoral Election: Too Close to Call or Repeating Past Democratic Advantages?

11-5-17: Updated to reflect latest NC BoE Numbers for absentee ballots as of November 6, 2017:

While it's an "odd year," elections in America happen every year. But in the Old North State, the major elections in 2017 are at the most local level: mayoral, city council, even school boards. And in the region that I live in, Charlotte's mayoral election has taken on a unique perspective, from what appears by one poll to be a considerably tight race in an urban area that has trended overwhelmingly Democratic in the past few years.

Tuesday's election will focus on Mecklenburg County (by results) and the Charlotte city elections, but with some investigation and data crunching, some early voting trends can be seen within the context of the registered voter pool within the city limits of the Queen City.

Based on the North Carolina State Board of Election's voter registration numbers from Saturday, November 4, the city of Charlotte's total number of registered active and inactive voters is 551,454, with registered Democrats having 48 percent of the pool, registered unaffiliated voters at 31 percent, and registered Republicans with 21 percent (registered Libertarians are barely one percent of the pool and votes being cast, so this analysis will focus on the big three registration factions).

Racially, the city of Charlotte's voter pool breaks down as: 51 percent white, 37 percent Black or African American, and 12 percent all other races or undesignated. The crosstabs of party registration and race breaks down in the following graphs:




The largest voter group in Charlotte are black Democrats (at 30 percent of the total voter pool), followed by white Republicans (19 percent), white unaffiliated voters (18 percent), and then white Democrats (13 percent).

One aspect of the demographic change occurring in the nation, and especially in urban areas, is the tectonic generational shift, from Baby Boomers to Millennials. Within Charlotte's registered voter pool, a plurality of voters are Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1998 (the youngest voters who are 18 years old are now considered "Generation Z", and are factored into this analysis even though there are very few of them now).  Over one-third (36 percent) of registered Charlotte voters are Millennials, with another 30 percent being in the Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1980), 26 percent being Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1964), and then only 7 percent are the oldest voters, those of the Greatest and Silent generations.

The party registration breakdowns within these generations reveal a significant shift between partisans and those "unaffiliated" voters:



While the Democratic dominance is apparent within the generations, the steady rise of the "unaffiliated" registered voter in the state is reflected within Charlotte as well, with registered Republicans experiencing a noticeable decline in affiliation: only 17 percent of Millennials are registering with the GOP within Charlotte.

This analysis sets up the "electorate" that can be drawn from for Tuesday's general election, but voting has already begun in the Queen City, with a surprising increase in early voters over the past two municipal election years (2013 and 2015).

In both 2013 and 2015, the Democratic mayoral candidates received 52 to 53 percent of the vote, while the Republican mayoral candidate received 47 to 48 percent.

Typically, North Carolinians have come to embrace the opportunity to "cast their votes early" through one-stop in-person absentee balloting, which closed this past Saturday. In comparing what appears to be the early final numbers for city early voting to the 2013 and 2015 county early voting numbers (unfortunately, isolating the city numbers from 2013 and 2015 is rather difficult to do), one can find a surprising increase in the numbers of ballots cast, especially by party affiliation.

In 2013's mayoral contest between Democrat Patrick Cannon and Republican Edwin Peacock, 55 percent of the early accepted ballots in Mecklenburg County came from registered Democrats, while 25 percent were from registered Republicans and 19 percent from registered unaffiliated. The numbers dropped in 2015's race between Democrat Jennifer Roberts and Republican Peacock (running again), to 46 percent from registered Democrats, 31 percent from registered Republicans, and 23 percent from registered unaffiliated voters.

This year's mayoral contest between Democrat Vi Lyles and Republican Kenny Smith (again, within the city limits of Charlotte), shows that 53 percent of the Charlotte early ballots are from registered Democrats, 23 percent from registered Republicans, and 24 percent from registered unaffiliated voters (graphs are corrected from yesterday's post, which included the entire county, not just Charlotte):




This year's increases from 2013 and 2015 have been significant; again, a reminder that the 2013 and 2015 numbers are from county-wide numbers, while the 11-5-17 numbers are from within the city of Charlotte.

Further breaking these numbers down by both generation and race within this year's election show some important patterns and trends; first, within the generational cohorts, those casting early votes within Charlotte skew much older, with approximately two-thirds of the votes coming from Baby Boomers or older voters.



And by race, white voters are casting a higher percentage than their registration numbers (57 percent of absentee ballots compared to 51 percent registration), with all other races below their registration percentage; black/African Americans have slightly exceed their registration numbers (38 percent of absentee ballots compared to 37 percent registration):



Graphs are updated and corrected for just City of Charlotte absentee ballots. Previous charts incorrectly identified numbers from all of Mecklenburg County. 

Come Tuesday, it will be important to see if the early votes are from voters who would have shown up on Election Day, or are they new voters who are participating in what appears to be a competitive election; that analysis will probably be only available after we know the results and the final data of voter activity comes in from the county. Most estimates are for total turnout to be in the range of 15 to 20 percent of the vote for the county.

On Tuesday evening, I'll be joining the folks at WFAE for election evening coverage. I hope you can join us, or follow us on Twitter with the accounts @WFAE@TomWFAE, and my Twitter account, @bowtiepolitics.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Follow Up on NC's Registered Unaffiliated Voters: Where Are They?

With some more data crunching, I have looked at the 100 counties and ranked order the percentage of registered unaffiliated voters in each. The below map demonstrates different percentages of unaffiliated voters in each county:

In breaking down the generational cohorts, there are some counties where Millennials are truly driving the rise of unaffiliated registered voter (in the state, an average of 40% of Millennials are registered unaffiliated):


Registered Democratic Registered Unaffiliated Registered Republican Registered Libertarian
TRANSYLVANIA 21% 54% 23% 1%
WATAUGA 25% 50% 23% 2%
HENDERSON 18% 50% 31% 1%
JACKSON 26% 50% 23% 1%
SWAIN 29% 50% 20% 1%
DARE 22% 49% 27% 2%
CURRITUCK 14% 48% 36% 1%
ORANGE 39% 48% 12% 1%
BUNCOMBE 33% 47% 18% 1%
MADISON 28% 47% 24% 1%
NEW HANOVER 28% 47% 24% 1%
MACON 18% 47% 34% 1%
CAMDEN 21% 46% 32% 1%
CLAY 17% 46% 36% 1%
POLK 22% 45% 31% 1%
CARTERET 17% 45% 37% 1%
ALLEGHANY 21% 45% 32% 1%
ONSLOW 21% 45% 33% 1%
BURKE 24% 45% 31% 1%
WAKE 34% 44% 21% 1%
MCDOWELL 19% 44% 36% 1%
CHEROKEE 17% 44% 38% 1%
MOORE 21% 44% 34% 1%
HAYWOOD 26% 44% 29% 1%
CHATHAM 32% 43% 23% 1%
BRUNSWICK 25% 43% 31% 1%
ASHE 20% 43% 36% 1%
CATAWBA 23% 42% 34% 1%
LEE 32% 42% 25% 1%
DAVIE 16% 42% 41% 1%
PERQUIMANS 33% 41% 25% 1%
IREDELL 23% 41% 35% 1%
HYDE 40% 41% 19% 0%
ALEXANDER 18% 41% 40% 1%
LINCOLN 18% 41% 40% 1%
CUMBERLAND 39% 41% 19% 1%
PERSON 35% 40% 24% 1%
CABARRUS 28% 40% 31% 1%
State 35% 40% 24% 1%
GASTON 28% 40% 31% 1%
HOKE 36% 40% 22% 1%
YADKIN 15% 40% 44% 1%
SURRY 21% 40% 39% 0%
PENDER 26% 40% 33% 1%
CRAVEN 28% 40% 32% 1%
DURHAM 50% 40% 10% 1%
JOHNSTON 25% 40% 34% 1%
RANDOLPH 17% 39% 42% 1%
YANCEY 28% 39% 32% 1%
ALAMANCE 33% 39% 27% 1%
WILKES 17% 39% 43% 1%
DAVIDSON 21% 39% 39% 1%
STOKES 17% 39% 43% 1%
PASQUOTANK 43% 39% 17% 1%
AVERY 13% 39% 47% 1%
HARNETT 27% 39% 32% 1%
UNION 24% 39% 36% 1%
RUTHERFORD 24% 39% 36% 1%
FORSYTH 39% 38% 22% 1%
TYRRELL 41% 38% 20% 1%
ROWAN 29% 38% 32% 1%
MECKLENBURG 42% 38% 19% 1%
MITCHELL 10% 38% 51% 1%
PAMLICO 30% 38% 32% 1%
CALDWELL 21% 37% 40% 2%
STANLY 22% 37% 40% 1%
MONTGOMERY 35% 37% 27% 1%
CLEVELAND 32% 37% 31% 1%
JONES 36% 36% 27% 1%
BEAUFORT 33% 36% 30% 1%
GUILFORD 46% 36% 17% 1%
CASWELL 37% 36% 27% 0%
FRANKLIN 36% 36% 27% 1%
COLUMBUS 44% 36% 20% 0%
GRANVILLE 41% 36% 23% 1%
PITT 39% 36% 24% 1%
RICHMOND 45% 36% 19% 0%
BLADEN 48% 35% 16% 0%
GRAHAM 23% 35% 42% 1%
ROCKINGHAM 30% 35% 34% 1%
WAYNE 36% 35% 28% 1%
SCOTLAND 50% 34% 16% 0%
GATES 43% 34% 22% 1%
CHOWAN 39% 33% 27% 0%
GREENE 45% 33% 21% 0%
DUPLIN 39% 33% 27% 1%
ROBESON 53% 32% 14% 1%
WILSON 47% 31% 21% 1%
SAMPSON 36% 31% 32% 1%
MARTIN 47% 29% 23% 0%
LENOIR 46% 29% 25% 1%
HALIFAX 59% 29% 12% 1%
NASH 47% 28% 24% 1%
WASHINGTON 57% 28% 15% 1%
NORTHAMPTON 61% 28% 12% 0%
VANCE 59% 27% 14% 1%
ANSON 62% 25% 13% 0%
HERTFORD 66% 24% 9% 0%
WARREN 64% 24% 11% 0%
BERTIE 63% 23% 13% 0%
EDGECOMBE 64% 20% 15% 0%

In comparison, only 24 percent of Baby Boomers state-wide are registered unaffiliated:


CURRITUCK 25% 39% 36% 0%
TRANSYLVANIA 29% 36% 35% 0%
HENDERSON 25% 36% 39% 0%
POLK 31% 34% 35% 0%
DARE 34% 33% 32% 0%
BRUNSWICK 28% 33% 39% 0%
CAMDEN 38% 32% 30% 0%
CLAY 26% 32% 42% 0%
CHATHAM 44% 30% 26% 0%
MACON 29% 29% 41% 0%
MOORE 29% 29% 42% 0%
CARTERET 27% 29% 44% 0%
BUNCOMBE 43% 29% 28% 0%
ONSLOW 32% 28% 39% 0%
CHEROKEE 29% 28% 43% 0%
WATAUGA 31% 28% 41% 0%
PERQUIMANS 44% 28% 28% 0%
JACKSON 43% 28% 29% 0%
ORANGE 54% 28% 18% 0%
WAKE 41% 27% 32% 0%
NEW HANOVER 36% 27% 37% 0%
MCDOWELL 34% 27% 38% 0%
SWAIN 44% 27% 29% 0%
IREDELL 28% 27% 45% 0%
MADISON 47% 27% 27% 0%
HAYWOOD 43% 26% 31% 0%
UNION 28% 26% 46% 0%
BURKE 37% 26% 37% 0%
PASQUOTANK 50% 26% 24% 0%
LINCOLN 29% 26% 45% 0%
CATAWBA 26% 26% 48% 0%
CABARRUS 32% 25% 42% 0%
PENDER 36% 25% 38% 0%
CRAVEN 39% 25% 36% 0%
PAMLICO 43% 25% 32% 0%
MITCHELL 11% 25% 64% 0%
DAVIE 20% 25% 55% 0%
MECKLENBURG 46% 25% 30% 0%
ROWAN 31% 24% 45% 0%
RUTHERFORD 38% 24% 37% 0%
State 42% 24% 34% 0%
AVERY 13% 24% 63% 0%
CALDWELL 28% 24% 48% 0%
GASTON 34% 24% 42% 0%
ALEXANDER 29% 24% 47% 0%
ASHE 33% 24% 43% 0%
YANCEY 41% 24% 35% 0%
JOHNSTON 36% 23% 41% 0%
ALLEGHANY 41% 23% 35% 0%
CHOWAN 52% 23% 25% 0%
PERSON 51% 23% 26% 0%
STANLY 31% 23% 46% 0%
ROCKINGHAM 42% 23% 35% 0%
LEE 47% 23% 30% 0%
TYRRELL 64% 22% 13% 0%
RANDOLPH 23% 22% 54% 0%
DURHAM 61% 22% 16% 0%
FRANKLIN 46% 22% 31% 0%
ALAMANCE 41% 22% 36% 0%
BEAUFORT 45% 22% 33% 0%
FORSYTH 43% 22% 35% 0%
GRAHAM 34% 22% 44% 0%
YADKIN 18% 22% 60% 0%
CUMBERLAND 52% 22% 26% 0%
HYDE 64% 22% 14% 0%
HOKE 59% 22% 19% 0%
BLADEN 64% 21% 15% 0%
GATES 61% 21% 18% 0%
DAVIDSON 28% 21% 50% 0%
CLEVELAND 45% 21% 33% 0%
GRANVILLE 53% 21% 25% 0%
DUPLIN 51% 21% 27% 0%
SURRY 36% 21% 43% 0%
SCOTLAND 63% 21% 16% 0%
GUILFORD 46% 21% 33% 0%
HARNETT 43% 21% 36% 0%
JONES 56% 20% 24% 0%
STOKES 29% 20% 51% 0%
MONTGOMERY 48% 20% 32% 0%
CASWELL 58% 20% 23% 0%
RICHMOND 61% 19% 20% 0%
PITT 54% 19% 27% 0%
GREENE 64% 19% 17% 0%
WILKES 26% 19% 55% 0%
COLUMBUS 64% 18% 18% 0%
WAYNE 49% 18% 34% 0%
HALIFAX 70% 17% 12% 0%
WASHINGTON 71% 17% 12% 0%
NASH 53% 16% 31% 0%
WILSON 57% 16% 26% 0%
LENOIR 60% 16% 24% 0%
MARTIN 66% 15% 19% 0%
WARREN 70% 15% 15% 0%
BERTIE 75% 15% 10% 0%
VANCE 71% 14% 15% 0%
ANSON 72% 14% 14% 0%
SAMPSON 48% 14% 38% 0%
NORTHAMPTON 77% 13% 10% 0%
HERTFORD 77% 13% 10% 0%
ROBESON 74% 13% 13% 0%
EDGECOMBE 75% 9% 16% 0%

As the "bridge" generation between Millennials and Baby Boomers, Generation Xers have 31 percent of their cohort registered unaffiliated:


TRANSYLVANIA 23% 43% 33% 1%
CURRITUCK 17% 42% 40% 1%
HENDERSON 20% 42% 38% 1%
DARE 26% 41% 32% 1%
WATAUGA 24% 40% 36% 1%
BUNCOMBE 36% 39% 24% 1%
ORANGE 45% 38% 16% 1%
POLK 25% 38% 37% 1%
CAMDEN 25% 38% 37% 1%
CLAY 23% 38% 39% 1%
MADISON 36% 37% 26% 1%
JACKSON 36% 37% 26% 0%
SWAIN 37% 37% 25% 0%
NEW HANOVER 30% 37% 33% 1%
CHATHAM 35% 37% 27% 1%
MCDOWELL 23% 36% 40% 0%
WAKE 37% 36% 27% 1%
CARTERET 19% 36% 44% 1%
MACON 22% 36% 42% 1%
BRUNSWICK 27% 35% 38% 0%
BURKE 26% 35% 38% 0%
HAYWOOD 32% 35% 32% 1%
MOORE 22% 35% 42% 1%
ONSLOW 25% 35% 39% 1%
CABARRUS 30% 33% 36% 1%
IREDELL 23% 33% 44% 0%
PASQUOTANK 41% 33% 25% 1%
PERQUIMANS 38% 33% 29% 1%
ALLEGHANY 32% 33% 35% 0%
UNION 24% 33% 43% 0%
LINCOLN 21% 33% 46% 0%
PERSON 39% 32% 28% 0%
ALEXANDER 23% 32% 45% 0%
PENDER 26% 32% 41% 1%
CATAWBA 23% 32% 45% 0%
MITCHELL 8% 32% 60% 0%
ASHE 24% 32% 44% 0%
MECKLENBURG 45% 31% 23% 0%
State 37% 31% 31% 0%
GASTON 28% 31% 40% 0%
DAVIE 16% 31% 52% 0%
RUTHERFORD 29% 31% 39% 1%
LEE 37% 31% 32% 0%
AVERY 9% 31% 59% 0%
CHEROKEE 25% 31% 44% 1%
ROWAN 26% 31% 43% 0%
HOKE 46% 31% 23% 0%
CALDWELL 22% 31% 47% 1%
STANLY 24% 31% 45% 0%
CRAVEN 31% 30% 38% 0%
DURHAM 57% 30% 12% 0%
TYRRELL 54% 30% 16% 0%
SURRY 24% 30% 45% 0%
CUMBERLAND 45% 30% 25% 0%
RANDOLPH 18% 30% 52% 0%
JOHNSTON 28% 30% 42% 1%
FORSYTH 40% 30% 30% 0%
ALAMANCE 36% 30% 34% 0%
ROCKINGHAM 33% 29% 37% 0%
DAVIDSON 22% 29% 48% 0%
HARNETT 33% 29% 37% 1%
GUILFORD 45% 29% 26% 0%
STOKES 20% 29% 51% 0%
GATES 44% 29% 27% 0%
FRANKLIN 37% 29% 34% 1%
BLADEN 53% 28% 18% 0%
YANCEY 34% 28% 37% 0%
PAMLICO 35% 28% 36% 1%
YADKIN 14% 28% 57% 0%
WILKES 19% 28% 52% 0%
SCOTLAND 54% 28% 18% 0%
CLEVELAND 36% 28% 36% 0%
MONTGOMERY 42% 27% 31% 0%
GRANVILLE 44% 27% 28% 0%
BEAUFORT 36% 27% 36% 0%
CASWELL 45% 27% 28% 0%
DUPLIN 43% 27% 30% 0%
RICHMOND 53% 26% 21% 0%
JONES 43% 26% 31% 0%
CHOWAN 45% 26% 28% 0%
COLUMBUS 53% 26% 21% 0%
PITT 46% 26% 28% 0%
WAYNE 40% 25% 35% 0%
GRAHAM 30% 25% 45% 0%
GREENE 54% 24% 21% 0%
HYDE 57% 24% 17% 1%
WILSON 50% 23% 27% 0%
MARTIN 55% 22% 23% 0%
HALIFAX 64% 22% 14% 0%
LENOIR 51% 21% 28% 0%
ROBESON 65% 21% 14% 0%
NASH 49% 21% 30% 0%
SAMPSON 39% 21% 39% 0%
ANSON 64% 20% 16% 0%
VANCE 64% 19% 16% 0%
WASHINGTON 67% 18% 15% 0%
NORTHAMPTON 72% 18% 10% 0%
HERTFORD 71% 17% 12% 0%
WARREN 71% 17% 12% 0%
BERTIE 71% 17% 12% 0%
EDGECOMBE 67% 14% 19% 0%

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

"We're #2!": Registered Unaffiliated Voters in North Carolina

It was this past Saturday that many who track NC politics had been waiting for--well, maybe 3 or 4 of us, but we saw it coming. Saturday's NC State Board of Elections data file showed that registered unaffiliated voters now outnumber registered Republicans statewide, and working towards the level of registered Democrats.

In looking at the September 9, 2017 data of the 6.7 million registered voters in the Old North State, registered unaffiliated voters were a total of 55 voters now above registered Republicans, marking the first time in the state's history that one of the two major parties was surpassed by voters who eschewed a party label in their voter registration.

So a couple of questions: first, where did this "rise of the unaffiliated" come from?

It's been some time in the making in North Carolina, but the trend lines speak for themselves. This graph shows the party registration figures, general for the first of each year since 2004:


Back in 2004, registered unaffiliated voters were only 17.7 percent of the pool, while registered Democrats were 47.6 percent and registered Republicans were 34.5 percent of the 5 million registered citizens.

Fast forward to September 9, 2017, and the 6.7 million registered North Carolinians break down into 39 percent registered Democrats, 30 percent registered unaffiliated, and 30 percent registered Republicans.

So who exactly are registering as unaffiliated in North Carolina? One of the key trends that I think is happening in the state, and across the nation, is the rise of the Millennial, those born in and after 1981. In breaking down the 6.7 million registered NC voters into generational cohorts (GenXers born between 1965 and 1980; Baby Boomers born between 1945 and 1965; the Greatest/Silent generations born before 1945), you find where the unaffiliated rise comes from:


Registering Millennials are breaking with both political parties and registering unaffiliated at 40 percent, while the generational cohorts have smaller middle bands of unaffiliated registration.

This generational shift has been occurring in North Carolina since 2008, most likely due to the Obama ground game in the state, but has only accelerated. In looking at the voter pool as of 9-9-17 and which year that the voters in that pool registered in, one sees the growing dominance of voters under the age of 36 in the past decade:


In 2016, almost 60 percent of North Carolina's voters who registered that year were Millennials.

Exploring these generational differences reveals some interesting trends; for example, the location of the voter is an important consideration to take into account, between urban, suburban, and rural counties of the state:


Millennials in urban counties should not surprise anyone, since research has tended to show that this generation prefers high density areas. Conversely, 54 percent of the Greatest & Silent generations prefer rural and suburban counties.

Beyond just where these voters live, we also find a distinct racial composition difference between the generations:


Millennials are the most racially diverse generation, and that is reflected in the fact that 38 percent of registered Millennial voters are non-white.

Exploring both white and black/African-American voters in North Carolina, differences are very apparent, but the unaffiliated trends are most pronounced within younger voters. For example, white voters in the South tend to be majority Republican, but younger NC voters are not following their older counterparts in registration affiliation:


Among NC black voters, the "post" civil rights generation may begin to show some independence from the strong Democratic allegiance and registration that the older generations have shown:


While their voter registration shows less than three-quarters of black NC voters registering with the Democratic Party, their voting patterns tend to show strong allegiance to Democrats.

Finally, in looking at the urban/suburban/rural divide within North Carolina's counties, the unaffiliated voters are becoming pronounced in urban and suburban counties, to the consternation of both political parties:


Unaffiliated voters are second within urban counties and suburban counties, making Republicans third in urban counties and Democrats third in suburban counties. Only in rural counties are unaffiliated voters trailing the two major parties in registration.

But here's a key point that must be made: being unaffiliated in registration does not mean you are politically independent. In fact, self-identifying as a political independent does not mean you aren't partisan either. In looking at the American National Election Study for 2016, when asked to indicate one's strength of partisanship and then their vote choice, those who are "independent leaners" tend to be as partisan as those who self-identify with one of the two political parties:


This trend of independent leaners being "faux independents" has been with us for some time, and the true national percentage of independent independents is typically 10 to 15 percent in a presidential election.

And when you look at the generation cohorts and their 2016 presidential vote choice, at least at the national level, you see the Democratic affiliation among Millennials in stark contrast to the other generations:


So, while unaffiliated voters in North Carolina are the fastest growing group among registration, the clarification of (at least thinking that North Carolina may, in some ways, reflect some of the trends of the nation), it is important to consider whether they truly are "unaffiliated" in their partisan allegiances, or whether they simply eschew the party label, but cast their ballots in secret as partisan as the next generation.