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: