Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Lay of the Political Landscape: An Analysis of the 2020 North Carolina State Senate Races

This is the second in a series regarding the 'state of the field' when it comes to the North Carolina General Assembly, the U.S. House districts, the gubernatorial contest, U.S. Senate race, and the presidential contest in North Carolina. Between now and early September, each week will see a new post analyzing the data and dynamics and giving some assessment (but not a forecast) of what to look for in November. This week we posted an analysis of the state's 7 million registered voters, and continue this week with the upper chamber of the General Assembly, the North Carolina state senate. In the coming weeks, we'll have the companion legislative analysis for the state house, along with the congressional, gubernatorial, U.S. Senate, and presidential contests in the Old North State. 

By Chris Cooper and Michael Bitzer

It is relatively easy to keep up with national and state-level races. Polling results, campaign finance data, and career details of the candidates are available to anyone with access to a library card, newspaper subscription, or keyboard. State legislative races, however, can be more difficult to follow. Their sheer number makes them hard to keep track of (170 in North Carolina), and the diffuse nature of state politics means that there’s not “one source” to find most of this information across all states. 

This is a problem not just for politicos, but for anyone who wants to follow what we would argue is the most important policy-making body for issues that affect people’s lives. Concerned about voting rights/voter security, abortion rights/right to life, gun rights/gun regulation, the quality of the roads you drive on, or economic development issues? The fault lines on those issues lies squarely in the purview of the state legislature. 

In order to attempt to bridge the gap between importance and knowledge, this entry provides a brief(ish) update and analysis on the 50 races for North Carolina Senate in 2020. One of us (the one with the trademark bow-tie) posted a similar analysis in February. This one builds off of that base with some new data and some new analysis. 

Monday, August 3, 2020

Lay of the Political Landscape: NC's 7M Registered Voters

As we draw closer to this month's nomination conventions and then Labor Day's 'unofficial' official start to the fall campaign season, Old North State Politics will be running a series looking at the 'lay of the political land' when it comes to North Carolina's pool of registered voters, the General Assembly, the thirteen U.S. House districts, and the gubernatorial, U.S. Senate, and presidential contests. Between now and early September, each week will have a new post analyzing the data and dynamics and giving some assessment (but not a forecast) of what to look for in November. This week we start with a ground-level analysis of the state's registered voter pool, followed later this week with the upper chamber of the General Assembly, the North Carolina state senate. 

By Michael Bitzer

As we inch towards the general election on Tuesday, November 3rd, we are starting to see North Carolina's voter registration pool shape up, with some key demographics and factors at play in the eligible pool of voters. And even with COVID-19, the numbers are on pace with four years ago, although there are some interesting patterns shaping up within the voter pool. 

Recently, North Carolina again went over 7 million registered voters, which the state has done before, but due to comprehensive maintenance of the voter rolls, that number dipped below 7M in January 2019 thanks to the removed voters.

With the August 1, 2020 statewide data file, we can look at not just the current standing of registered voters in the Old North State, but we can also get a profile of this year's registered voters who have been added to the pool so far.

Of the 7,040,308 voters in the August 1 data file, party registrations have remained consistent throughout the year: 36 percent are registered Democrats, 33 percent registered Unaffiliated, and 30 percent registered Republicans, with the remainder made up of registered Libertarians, Greens, and Constitution party voters.

Monday, July 27, 2020

NC's Absentee by Mail Ballot Requests Could Hit 100K This Week

By Michael Bitzer

Two weeks ago, I posted an article about the estimated number of absentee by mail (ABM) ballot requests submitted by North Carolina registered voters, based on a July 7th report from the NC State Board of Elections and information from various county boards of elections. At that point, the estimated requests stood at 69,500.

Following that, the State Board began a daily report of the requests, found here, that not only gives the status of requests by counties, but also various demographic factors, such as voter race, gender, ethnicity, and age ranges. In the past week since the report has been posted and updated daily, the numbers of ABM requests have grown considerably, and this piece will see where things stand now as we are under a hundred days away from the general election, and more importantly, only forty days from when the ABM ballots will sent out to voters.

As of Monday, July 27, the estimated total requests for NC absentee by mail ballots stands at 92,370, up from the initial estimated number that was posted of 69,500, an increase of thirty-three percent over the past two weeks. Based on projections that I'll discuss shortly, we could easily see North Carolina reach an estimated 100,000 requests within the next week, most likely by Monday, August 3rd.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Recent NC Polls show discrepancies: what explains it?

By David McLennan, Guest Contributor

Two recent polls about the US Senate race in North Carolina raised the eyebrows of many political observers in the state and around the nation. The June East Carolina University Poll had Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham tied with Republican incumbent Thom Tillis (41-41). Public Policy Polling (PPP) released their June poll results that had Cunningham up eight points over Tillis (47-39).

This race, expected to be very competitive by national forecasting organizations such as the Cook Political Report, appears to be a toss-up, according to the ECU Poll, but less so in the PPP Poll.

The discrepancy in these results is not unique to these two polling organizations. Results about North Carolinians preference for president in April showed equally dissimilar results from the Civitas Poll and my own Meredith Poll.

These differing results do not mean there is anything wrong with the methodologies used by the polling organizations. It reflects a more fundamental fact about public opinion that early polls—those conducted months before Election Day—are going to have results that differ, often wildly. The reality is that the surveys administered closer to Election Day are going to be more consistent with each other and show more stability in public opinion.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Party Switchers in the North Carolina Electorate

By Chris Cooper

The makeup of a state’s electorate can change in a few ways. The first is what is euphemistically known as “generational replacement”—people enter the electorate when they come of age and they exit the electorate when they shuffle off their mortal coil. People can also register at any point after they reach 18—large-scale registration can spur small pockets of registration and affect the shape of the electorate. Voters can also from one state to another—influencing the electorate in the state they leave and that they move to. A small, but important number of registered voters also have their voting rights temporarily suspended after committing a felony.

While all of these patterns are important, the partisan makeup of the electorate can also change when registered voters switch parties. Examining these patterns in party switching can give us signals about how the opinions, attitudes and behaviors of the electorate may be changing.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

How Police Actions Change Perceptions of Law Enforcement

by Whitney Manzo

With recent news stories surrounding public Confederate statutes across the South, North Carolina has been home to several controversial decisions, and removals, of these memorials. All around the country these statues have come under fire as part of the Black Lives Matter movement, with many being toppled by protestors. While more Americans favor letting Confederate statues stand than removing them, it is not a majority, and the percentage of supporters has decreased quite a bit in the last few years- a fairly quick shift in public opinion. Still, many North Carolinians oppose the removal of Confederate statues, which has led to a few tense standoffs between Black Lives Matter protestors and counter-protestors.

For example, there has been a storm of controversy around the outside of the Alamance County courthouse, where a Confederate monument depicts a generic Confederate soldier on top of a column. The base of the statue is adorned with carved Confederate flags, and lists of Confederate soldiers from the county and other Confederate relics are stored inside the monument. A group of community leaders, including educators, business people, and politicians, have called for the monument to be removed from its pedestal and placed in a museum, but Alamance County Commissioners claim they don't have the power to do so under North Carolina law.

Monday, July 13, 2020

An Estimate of Where NC Stands in Absentee-by-Mail Ballot Requests

By Michael Bitzer

Note: this article was posted at 8:30 AM on Monday, July 13; during the day, I received more updated numbers from several counties, and have updated the overall numbers given below at 9 PM on Monday, July 13. 

The issue of voting by mail continues to cause controversy in the news, especially by unsubstantiated allegations that voting by mail allows for rampant fraud. Recent tweets by the president alleging "mail in ballot fraud found in many elections," while providing no specific cases or facts, continues to keep an important method of casting ballots in the spotlight.

We know that other states are utilizing voting by mail for the general election, but North Carolina has had mail-in voting as its original form of absentee voting. And typically, NC vote by mail ballots are a relatively small percentage of overall ballots cast in an election--but 2020 may herald a new day in NC voting, if early numbers are any indication of voters requesting mail-in ballots. And, as I’ll explain below, we have a general sense of what those early numbers are like, as of mid-July.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

ONSP's first "vlog" on the South and the 2020 Election

So, we decided to try something out: a 'vlog', or a video version of a blog post. Since the four of us study American politics, we also look at things through a Southern point of view at times, and an article on "Democrats, Biden look to accelerate Southern political shift," by Bill Barrow of the AP this week caught our attention. 

Here are some thoughts as to how each of us see the role of the South in the 2020 election, as well as thinking about the political dynamics through race, generations, and what the region may be like come this fall. We'll try to do an occasion "vlog" as we have time and there's an interesting story to further explain. 


Monday, July 6, 2020

North Carolina's "None" Voters: The Growing Non-Reporting of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender

By Chris Cooper and Michael Bitzer

The Increasing Relevance of a Footnote

Both of us spend a lot of time with the North Carolina voter registration and voter history files. When we present data, evidence, and analyses from these files, we usually provide a small footnote that indicates something like “*we exclude a small number of voters for which demographic data are not available” or acknowledge that a portion of voters don’t report their classification. Over the past few months, however, we both have begun to question how small of a number these "no label" voters really represents. In the course of investigating it, we have discovered that, while still relatively small, the number of folks who do not answer the demographic questions when they register to vote is increasing. As we discuss below, this presents some problems that many of us must grapple with when doing similar analyses in the future.