Monday, June 17, 2024

The Nexis of Mobilization & Engaged (or lack thereof) Voters

By Michael Bitzer

As we get into the summer lull of the general campaign before the unprecedented first presidential debate, followed by the party conventions (along with the Olympics in between the conventions), watchers of American politics are being bombarded by poll after poll about where various races stand. 

In other words, it's the dog days of summer and horserace polls that only tell us so much several months out from the general election. 

But one thing that has struck me is the early focus on who will likely be '2024 voters' and how the two parties (and other parties as well) will seek to motivate, mobilize, and get their voters--both the diehard engaged and those 'disengaged'--to November's polls.

In North Carolina, for political analysts and (especially) political operatives and campaigns, data can tell us which voters have been 'consistent' participants in their voting habits (thus, what we could describe as engaged voters), as opposed to those who are registered, but for whatever reason, just don't show up--what the AP focused on in a recent article on disengaged voters in the Old North State

One recent example in North Carolina is enlightening as to the cause and effect when it comes to voters who cast ballots--or more importantly, don't mobilize to cast a ballot. 

Thursday, May 30, 2024

The Tendency & Tumble of Split Ticket Voting in North Carolina

By Michael Bitzer

I recently joined WUNC's Due South to talk about ticket-splitting voters, especially in North Carolina. The dynamic of ticket-splitting is often associated with how presidential and congressional candidates do within a district: we may hear of a Biden-Republican congressional representative district, or a Trump-Democratic district as a sign of the voters willing to divide their votes for different parties on the same ballot. We may also hear about a 'split' in how a state votes for president (for one party) and a U.S. Senate seat (for the other party).

But with North Carolina being one of eleven states that holds a gubernatorial election in a presidential election year, those of us who study NC politics have a natural experiment that lends itself to studying the impact of split-ticket, or the opposite dynamic of straight-ticket, voting on a state-wide scale.

As an example of this bi-polar partisan behavior, Greene County demonstrates what North Carolina experienced at the start of the 21st Century and the changes leading up to this year. In 2000's election, Greene County gave Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush 57.5 percent of its vote, but immediately below on the ballot, Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Vinroot got only 40.4 percent of the vote--a difference of 17 percentage points, making it one of seven counties with a 17 point or greater difference between the GOP presidential and gubernatorial two-party vote percentages.

Friday, May 17, 2024

The Politics of Masking

By Todd Collins

Editor’s note: with the visibility regarding House Bill 237, the 'mask bill' that passed the North Carolina State Senate this week and sent to the State House, ONSP asked Dr. Todd Collins (a licensed attorney and legal/political scholar with extensive experience in the courtroom and the classroom) to offer his analysis on the bill. His views do not represent the opinions of his home academic institution.

Not too long ago the only political discussions about face coverings surrounded the “mask index.”  If you aren’t familiar, this is a way to predict the presidential election based on which candidate’s Halloween mask sells the most before an election.  

As the legend goes, this method has correctly predicted every election outcome since Ronald Reagan.  George W. Bush masks were the bigger sellers in 2000 and 2004, Obama masks outsold his Republican rivals in 2008 and 2012, and we saw more Donald Trump faces than Hillary Clinton’s on October 31, 2016.

Of course, national mask sells are really hard to quantify, so I wouldn’t make a parlay bet on the 2024 election based on statistics from Spencer’s Gifts.  But one thing that is clear is that masks have indeed become a recent “Hot Topic” (and yes, that’s two old-school mall store references in one paragraph if you’re keeping score).

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Runoff Rundown

By Christopher Cooper

There was a second primary in North Carolina on May 14 for the Republican Auditor, Lieutenant Governor and NC-13 races (yes, there were a couple of runoffs for important local races too, but I'm just discussing the congressional and statewide here). So, what happened?


Voter turnout in the second primary was somewhere between terrible and awful. Statewide, fewer than 3 percent of all eligible voters cast a vote. 

If you compare the number of people who cast a vote in the first primary for that office to the number who cast a vote in the second primary, things don't look much better. Turnout for the Republican Auditor second primary was ~14.5% of the first primary, Republican Lieutenant Governor was about 14% of original turnout and Republican 13th Congressional District was about 25.7% of original turnout.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Via The Assembly: The Short Life and Quiet Death of Ranked-Choice Voting in North Carolina

With the second primary (run-off) primary begin held tomorrow (May 14), Dr. Chris Cooper takes a look at the use of a voting technique that may have avoided the use of a run-off election: ranked-choice voting.

Cooper details ranked-choice voting's brief history and quiet death at The Assembly at:

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Via LSE Blog: Why North Carolina is the purple state to watch in this election

Dr. Chris Cooper wrote an analysis for the London School of Economics and Political Science blog on US Politics & Policy on why the Old North State is the "purple state to watch" in 2024's general election. 

You can find his post here

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Counties to Watch in the 2024 North Carolina General Election

By Christopher Cooper

Whether you want to call it a purple, swingy, battleground or competitive state, it is increasingly clear that North Carolina is the short-list of states that matter in the 2024 Presidential election. President Biden and Vice President Harris have visited North Carolina so often that state media are reporting about their favorite Cook-Out orders

For his part, Donald Trump has visited the state recently and, perhaps just as importantly, successfully advocated for former North Carolina GOP Chair Michael Whatley to become head of the Republican National Committee (along with North Carolina native Lara Trump). 

Then there's North Carolina's gubernatorial race, which is expected to be the most expensive, most watched, and most competitive in the country. The North Carolina Attorney General Race is going to draw more than the average number of eyeballs. Even the Superintendent of Public Instruction race is on the national radar

All this is to say: North Carolina matters.

But, as anyone has has ever attempted to order Eastern Barbecue West of Lexington knows, the state is not a monolith. Some counties in North Carolina prefer the tomato based sauce in the West and some prefer the vinegar based sauce in the East. And, more to the point of this blog, some counties lean heavily towards the Republican Party, and some towards the Democratic Party. A very few fall in that murky middle where political preferences are less clear. 

So, where is that murky middle? Where should political observers turn their attention in 2024?

Thursday, March 28, 2024

You Mean We Have to Vote Again?!? Runoffs and second primaries in the 2024 North Carolina Election

by Christopher Cooper and Michael Bitzer

Like a dinner guest that just won't leave, we're not done with the 2024 primaries yet.[1] The Republican (statewide) primaries for North Carolina Auditor and Lt. Governor are headed to a second primary on May 14, 2024, as is the Republican side of the NC-13 congressional race, two (Republican) Gaston County Commission primaries, and the Orange County Schools Board of Education.

Now that the list of offices for the May 14, 2024 runoff is set, and ballots are being mailed out, we thought it would be a good time to address a few (five in this case) questions about second primaries and runoffs.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Ballot Roll-Off Was High in the North Carolina Republican Primary: Here's Why it Matters

 by Christopher Cooper

We are still clearing out the dust from the 2024 primary election in North Carolina, but two stories have emerged thus far: voter turnout was down to its lowest level since 2004 and Unaffiliated voters in early voting selected the Republican ballot almost two-thirds of the time--a massive increase for the Republican Party.

While those stories are clear and backed up by turnout as it is usually calculated, those numbers actually overstate turnout because many people engage in what political scientists call ballot-roll off--the practice of filling out the top of the ticket and skipping over offices farther down. As we will see below, ballot roll-off was high in the 2024 primary election, particularly on the Republican ballot. In a few cases, the number of people who rolled-off exceeded the vote martin between the top two candidates!

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Drs. Cooper & Bitzer join "Do Politics Better" Podcast

Drs. Chris Cooper and Michael Bitzer join Brian Lewis and Skye David for their "Do Politics Better" podcast to talk early voting trends, races to watch, political party realignment, purity tests, and what surprises could be in store on election night. You can find the link to the podcast here:

North Carolina Super Tuesday 2024 Primary Watching Guide

By Christopher Cooper

As I post this (2:05 pm on election day), most North Carolinians have cast their ballots and will soon be turning to watching the results. What follows is a guide to watching those results--a cheat sheet, if you will--for what you can expect, when you can expect it, and which races to pay attention to. This guide isn't really meant for people who speak in #ncpol shorthand, but rather for people who spend most of their lives thinking about things other than politics and want to get up to speed quickly. 

With that throat-clearing intro out of the way, here is my (relatively) brief guide to Super Tuesday in North Carolina. 

Monday, March 4, 2024

What We Know about NC's Early Primary Votes and What We Might Expect for Tuesday's March 5 Election Day

By Michael Bitzer

With North Carolina's in person early voting now concluded, and the trickle of mail in ballots yet to come along with Election Day ballots, we can look back and see what the dynamics of early voting has to say about who, and which party, are showing up with banking primary election ballots.

Just under 700,000 early ballots have been accepted as of Monday, March 4 for all party primaries, with the division breaking heavily to the Republican Party primary side--not surprising because of the slightly contested presidential campaign between former president Donald Trump and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, the last standing major GOP candidate against the former two-time party nominee.

Data from NCSBE compiled by author

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

You’re going to wait longer for March 5 election results, North Carolina

You're going to wait longer for March 5 election results in North Carolina.

The reason is buried in section 29, page 18 of Senate bill 747. It reads as follows:

Clear as mud, right?

Chris Cooper and Michael Bitzer reflected on what this new legislation might mean in practice in a short piece in the News and Observer/Charlotte Observer.

News and Observer Link: 

Charlotte Observer Link: 

The NC State Board of Elections put out a more detailed release on the same issue: 

Andy Jackson from the John Locke Foundation also weighed in on the issue:

Monday, February 19, 2024

Past Trends in NC's Primary Elections & Voting Methods: More Primary Voters Moving to Early Voting

By Michael Bitzer

With North Carolina's start to early in-person voting (what has traditionally been referred to as "Absentee OneStop" since voters could both register to vote and cast their ballot in a one-stop process), past trends might give us a sense of what we could expect over the next few weeks leading up to the March 5th primary election day.

In calculating the below charts for the 2016, 2020, and 2022 primary elections, I relied on the NC State Board of Elections "voter history" data files that keeps a record of the vote method and party primary that voters cast their ballots in. 

In pulling this information together, I decided against using 2018's primary election, as it was a 'blue-moon' election cycle with no major state-wide contest on the ballot (no presidential contest, for example, nor a U.S. Senate contest). With this year's presidential primary contest, I'm looking at the past two presidential primaries and the most recent mid-term U.S. Senate primary election (2022). 

Friday, February 16, 2024

Five Questions As We Enter the Official Election Season in NC

by Christopher Cooper

Pitchers and catchers are reporting to Spring Training, a few flowers are peeking out to take a look around, and roadways across North Carolina are increasingly littered with political signs. Spring is coming and the the 2024 election is here. 


Although ballots have been accepted in North Carolina since January 21, the election shifted into a different gear yesterday--the first day of in person early voting. As a result, it seems like as good a time as any to take a look towards the 2024 election and identify a few questions that observers of North Carolina politics should be watching.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Now All GOP Eyes Turn South to the Palmetto State's Politics

By Michael Bitzer

Now that the first two contests of the GOP presidential primary season are in the books, all eyes now turn to February 24's primary in South Carolina, the "first in the South" contest for the Republicans (Democrats will have their official first primary contest in the nation in South Carolina on February 3). 

Before diving into Palmetto politics, a bit of a review of some interesting trends in both Iowa's and New Hampshire's polls (entrance for the Hawkeye State, exit for the Granite State).

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Previewing 2024's Election Year? Buckle-Up

By Michael Bitzer

Well, it's the start of the new year and new semester, and with the 2024 Election year now officially upon us, I (along with my fellow contributors) will share some thoughts as to what we'll be watching for over the coming months. 

For me, it's a single phrase: buckle-up, cause it's gonna be a bumpy year.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

A Variety of Media Appearances to Start 2024

Several of the blog contributors have been busy with media appearances as the new year starts and the official kick-off of Election 2024 begins. 

You can find the following contributors at these recent appearances:

Dr. Susan Roberts was on WFAE's Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins with a 2024 political preview:

Drs. Chris Cooper and Michael Bitzer were on Spectrum News 1's Capital Tonight (starting at 10:50):

Drs. Roberts and Bitzer were on WUNC's Due South's inaugural "Purple Ballot" series episode:

Dr. Bitzer was on WCNC's Flashpoint along with Winthrop University's Dr. Scott Huffmon (starting at 10:05):