Thursday, April 13, 2023

Perceptions of Polarization in North Carolina

By Whitney Ross Manzo and David McLennan

Recently, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) gained attention for a statement in which she argued for a national divorce between red and blue states. She argued that from “the sick and disgusting woke culture issues shoved down our throats to the Democrat’s traitorous America Last policies, we are done.” Although Greene was widely criticized for her remarks, even by members of the Republican Party, her comments reflected the belief that America’s political polarization is based on wildly divergent policy positions. Her comments also suggest that polarization has increased to the point that the country may be at a breaking point. 

Although there is evidence that policy differences exist, particularly on cultural war issues, and may contribute to political polarization, there is also a body of research that suggests that political polarization is based on social identity differences. As opposed to differences in ideology, affective polarization is the idea that we identify with people more similar in identity to us (political affiliation, race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) and feel dislike and even disgust for those who are different from us. 

Using data from the Meredith Poll from 2017-2023, we set out to examine whether we find evidence of polarization among North Carolinians. Do North Carolinians perceive there to be high levels of polarization? And, are North Carolinians polarized, either by issue or by identity?

Monday, April 10, 2023

Putting Tricia Cotham's Party Switch in Context

By Christoper Cooper and Michael Bitzer

Donald Trump's indictment might have received the most political attention last week and Democrats won a critical state supreme court race in Wisconsin, but the most politically consequential event in the United States might have taken place eight hours away from the eye of the Trump storm. On April 5, 2023, Tricia Cotham, a Democratic lawmaker in North Carolina's State House, announced that she was switching political parties. Elected as a Democrat, Cotham is now a Republican.

Cotham's move essentially rendered Governor Cooper's veto ineffective. The Republicans now have supermajority control of both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly and can override Cooper's veto without securing a single Democratic vote. 

The news about Cotham raised all sorts of questions about party switching in general, and how it potentially fits into a seismic shift in North Carolina politics.