Wednesday, May 27, 2020

What might presidential coattails, or voter loyalty, mean in 2020 in North Carolina?

In a recent Politico article on "Swing-state Republicans warn Trump's reelection is on shaky ground," former NC Governor Pat McCrory observed "the concern is: Will he have coattails for the other offices, from Senate to governor and other important races?" Geoffrey Skelley at also looked at the effect of presidential coattails on a variety of down-ballot contests through various studies by political scientists. He comes to the conclusion that while presidential coattails can certainly help down-ballot party candidates, the inverse may be true as well: the president could bring down those lower-ballot candidates as well. 

For most political scientists and historians of American politics, the concept of presidential coattails is that the 'top of the ticket/ballot,' that is the president, would bring in lower-level candidates (U.S. Senate and House candidates, for example) who might not have been able to win on their own accord. In other words, presidents could potentially drag their party's candidates across the finish line to victories in the general election. 

With the increase in partisan loyalty of American voters, one of the key questions asked about voter behavior is whether the top of the ticket is bringing in the votes for lower level office candidates of the same party, or could the top of the ticket represents voters who vote 'straight party' down the ballot? 

Friday, May 22, 2020

The History of the NC Republican Party, via the Levine Museum of the New South

Last year, Dr. Tom Hanchett, a community historian and, for 16 years, the Staff Historian at Levine Museum of the New South and now is historian-in-residence for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library, asked me to do a presentation on the history of the Republican Party in North Carolina. 

With the upcoming Republican National Convention, it was a perfect for their series, "The New South for New Southerners," and it would be a fun presentation for me to put together for an in-person evening of talking about politics in the Old North State.

Little did we realize that COVID-19 would cancel that in-person presentation, so we did the next best thing: went online with a FaceBook Live presentation. 

Here's the presentation, along with a Q&A for a few minutes afterwards. I'm thinking of breaking up the presentation and doing a separate series of YouTube videos on each of the three questions that I pose in the presentation, along with including a bit more depth of items that I couldn't get into the presentation due to time constraints. 

Monday, April 13, 2020

Investigating North Carolina's Absentee by Mail Vote Method

With the current discussion about voting by mail and its potential use for the 2020 elections, both for primary and general contests, and the possible partisan ramifications of this vote method, North Carolina has utilized absentee by mail voting as one of its voting methods for elections since the early 20th Century. Along with absentee onestop voting (which was introduced in 1977 and is in-person, no excuse voting during a window of time before an election) and Election Day in-person voting, absentee by mail voting is one of the top three forms of casting ballots for voters in the Old North State.

In researching North Carolina politics for nearly twenty years, I have data from the North Carolina State Board of Elections regarding both registered voter information and voter history (meaning, data on each voter who cast a ballot, along with their vote method--but not their vote choice). Recently, I presented research at the Citadel Symposium on Southern Politics regarding "A Matter of Electoral Convenience: Early Voting in North Carolina, 2004-2018" that prompts me to write this blog post, for public awareness and education on North Carolina's use of voting by mail.

Based on this research, I want to briefly summarize what political scientists know about "convenience voting," the term related to voting other than on Election Day (many people may refer to it as 'early voting,' 'voting by mail,' or 'absentee voting'). First, I'll cover some general observations about convenience voting and absentee by mail voting based on research by political scientists, and then an in-depth exploration of the data related to absentee voting, especially by mail, in North Carolina and in the 2016 presidential general election.

What is known about absentee/convenience voting? 

Monday, April 6, 2020

Who Showed Up for North Carolina's Super Tuesday Primary Election?

It's been a month since North Carolina held its primary election on Super Tuesday, and the data is finally available for who showed up to cast ballots in the respective party primaries.

In total, the state saw a turnout rate of 31 percent, with over 2.1 million ballots being cast. This is slightly down from the overall 2016 March primary election, where 35 percent of registered voters showed up, casting 2.3 million ballots.

This year's Democratic primary ballots did exceed 2016's numbers: 1.3 million and 1.1 million four years ago. The drop was in Republican primary ballots, not surprising due to a lack of competitive primary at the presidential level.

Out of this year's primary elections in the state's 100 counties, 98 of them appear to have submitted their data for which voters showed up, with which party primary and vote method the voter used in casting a ballot.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Some thoughts on Super Tuesday

So, it's finally here: Super Tuesday, the March 3 primary elections in North Carolina and thirteen other states, especially California and Texas (with bigger Democratic delegations than North Carolina).

As I await the polls closing at 7:30 PM and then see the returns come in, some questions and thoughts about Super Tuesday that I'll be looking for tonight and tomorrow:

Question 1: what is North Carolina's split between early and Election Day results?

Sunday, March 1, 2020

NC's Democratic Primary Early Voters: Diversification in Many Ways

With Saturday's final day of early voting, it's time to take a deep dive into the data to see who showed up to cast absentee ballots before the "Super Tuesday" March 3rd primary election in the Old North State.

North Carolinians have three main options in casting ballots: absentee by mail, absentee onestop (which is no-excuse early voting in-person), and Election Day voting (including transfers and provisional ballots).

In this year's preliminary total, close to 800,000 ballots were cast in all party primaries through February 29 (over 500,000 of those ballots are in the Democratic primary), and while there will be some "settling" by counties and remaining processing, the following descriptive analysis should give us a sense of who showed up. We'll have to wait until Tuesday (March 3) night, shortly after the polls close at 7:30 PM, to get a sense as to how these early voters decided.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

It Isn't "The State of the Union," But Rather "The State of the Divide"

Based on last night's performance of the State of the Union, I have to think that there is a real possibility we have seen the last televised State of the Union (SOTU) before a joint session of Congress when the House of Representatives is controlled by the party opposite the White House.

In other words: another norm broken.

First, some historical & constitutional perspectives about States of the Union.

Article II, Section 3, Clause 3 states “He [the President] shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient...

This is the constitutional foundation of the SOTU. Notice there's nothing said about how the "Information on the State of the Union" shall be given. And it's "from time to time"--nothing constitutionally specific there either. 

Monday, February 3, 2020

Analysis of North Carolina State Senate Districts

In a previous post, I looked at the North Carolina State House of Representatives and the numbers within the new districts, based on a recent redistricting. This post looks at the numbers for the state senate and its districts, utilizing the classification approach and data. 

As a reminder: the classification approach that I take is based on a district's their partisan behavior, meaning the categories use a combination of factors: 

  • presidential results within the district; 
  • voter registration percentages (party registration and racial demographics) from the January 11, 2020 registration file from the North Carolina State Board of Elections; and,
  • the district's 'regionalism,' namely the percentage of registered voters in center cities (urban counties), outside of the center city but still inside an urban county, a surrounding suburban county, or a rural county.

As I showed in the previous post, the relationship between Donald Trump's 2016 vote performance in a district matches up very closely to the Republican candidate's vote performance in the 2018 election:

Saturday, February 1, 2020

"Carolina Campaigns" Podcast has its first episode

I'm pleased to announce that I've joined up with Dr. Joe Cabosky for a new podcast on North Carolina politics, campaigns, and elections (along with other topics that come to our minds) called "Carolina Campaigns."

Dr. Cabosky is an assistant professor at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he teaches market research and case studies, along with conducting research into diversifying and disrupting strategic communications, public relations, and advertising. He writes at

Our podcasts will run every two weeks (or so), and can be found on SoundCloud. Our first episode looks at the Iowa Caucuses a week out, and the political nuances that can be found in North Carolina politics, from both of our points of view and scholarly work. We hope you'll take a listen.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Analysis of North Carolina State House Districts

With the upcoming North Carolina primary elections on March 3, and with the state legislative and congressional district maps finalized for the 2020 election, here's a look at the North Carolina House of Representatives districts for where things stand at the beginning of the year, and the possible classifications for each district come November.

My approach to classifying districts is based on their partisan behavior, meaning the categories use a combination of factors: presidential results within the district; voter registration percentages (party registration and racial demographics) from the January 11, 2020 registration file from the North Carolina State Board of Elections; and the district's 'regionalism,' namely the percentage of registered voters in center cities (urban counties), outside of the center city but still inside an urban county, a surrounding suburban county, or a rural county.

First, to give a sense of how the four regions performed as a whole in the 2016 presidential election, this chart gives the four regions and their state-wide performances:

Thursday, January 9, 2020

NC Voters Since 2016: Younger, More Diverse, Much More Unaffiliated

With the prior post regarding the end of the 2019 year analysis of North Carolina registered voters, I decided to look at the new voters who registered since the last presidential election in 2016 to see what kind of patterns we might see since the last presidential battle in the Old North State.

Since 2016, over 1.3 million new voters have registered in North Carolina (20 percent of the current 6.8 million active/inactive/temporary registered voters), with unaffiliated status claiming 43 percent of these new voters, Democrats claiming 30 percent of the new registrants, and Republicans taking 26 percent. All other party registrations--Libertarian, Green, and Constitution--totaled one percent.