Friday, December 17, 2021

Does Party Competitiveness in NC's Primaries Drive Unaffiliated Voters One Way or the Other?

By Michael Bitzer

With the holidays looming, Cheri Beasley's campaign for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate got an early Christmas gift, coming in the form of fellow competitor Jeff Jackson's suspension of his campaign and endorsement yesterday. 

And with the primary election now two months later, thanks to the state gerrymandering lawsuit, Beasley's campaign gets to firm up her general campaign operations, including building a warchest for what will likely be one of the most expensive U.S. Senate races again in the nation. Republicans, however, will have to wait until May before what appears to be a bitter and brutal primary fight will be resolved. 

And while most of the focus will be on the candidates and their strategies towards May and ultimately November, there's one other important group of individuals to consider: the voters. As my colleagues and I have been looking at the rise of North Carolina's unaffiliated registered voter, we have the data collected to see who has shown up in past primaries, especially by voter party registration or, in the case of the unaffiliated voter, lack thereof. 

For the 2008 to 2020 primary elections, I collected each of the presidential and mid-term voter history data, which provides both the voter's party registration and the party primary selected. As a reminder, only partisan registered voters are allowed to participate in their primary, but unaffiliated registered voters can select either the Democratic or Republican primary ballot.