Wednesday, July 21, 2021

An Early Look at 2022's NC US Senate Race Fundraising

By Whitney Ross Manzo

Everyone knows fundraising is critical to the success of political campaigns, and in the post-Citizens United world of campaign finance, the amount needed to be successful is ever-increasing. In the 2020 election cycle, over $14 billion was spent, more than doubling the previous record holder of the 2016 election cycle! Part of that spending was for the two most expensive Senate races ever, in Georgia, where both the Republicans and the Democrats spent enormous sums in order to secure partisan control of the US Senate. There is every indication that the 2022 US Senate race in North Carolina will also be a record breaker for two main reasons.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

How Might Politics Impact NC's County COVID Vaccination Percentages?

By Michael Bitzer

As with many things nowadays, partisanship and polarization has infected many aspects of our society; not just our political lives, but things that 'normally' one might consider apolitical. With the intensity of what we see in our polarized environment, pretty much any issue, especially those seen as a public policy, becomes framed in partisan dimensions. 

Recently, political scientist Seth Masket at the University of Denver noted that the relationship between how a state voted in the 2020 presidential election and its percentage of adults who have received at least one COVID vaccine is "remarkably strong," at a level of 0.85 correlation which is something social scientists "almost never see this high a correlation between variables." This relationship was also found by another political scientist, Tom Pepinsky, regarding county-level data.

In fact, Masket found that vaccination rates are a "better predictor" of state voting patterns than what we normally think of as predictive (read, in statistical language, independent) variables such as race, education, or other demographic factors. 

Beyond just analyzing the fifty states, Masket analyzed Colorado's counties to evaluate the role of vaccination and voting patterns in 2020, and found another remarkable correlation/relationship between the two (at 0.835, where a 1.0 would mean the two variables are identical in their relationship and that one variable perfectly explains the other variable).

For those of us who study state politics and are interested in a particular state, this type of analysis is fairly simple: take the 2020 county-level election results (say, the 100 counties of North Carolina and their vote for Trump) and the vaccination rates by counties and see how the two numbers relate to each other. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Innumeracy and General Assembly Salary

By Christopher Cooper

State legislators don’t make much money for their legislative service, and that’s an understatement. In North Carolina, they receive $13,951 a year, plus a mileage reimbursement and a per diem for time in session. This paltry salary has wide-ranging implications for understanding North Carolina politics, as I discussed in this piece for The Assembly. 


Despite the problems of staggeringly low legislative pay, efforts to increase legislative pay have not progressed very far in the Tar Heel State. I have always suspected that one reason why that may be the case is that the average North Carolinian drastically overestimates how much legislators make. If that’s the case, would correcting these misperceptions help? I tried to answer those questions in some recent research that I published in the journal Public Opinion Quarterly


The paper includes data from ~2000 registered voters four states: California, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and New Hampshire—states that vary in terms of legislative salary (with California at the top of the salary scale, New Hampshire at the bottom and Wisconsin and North Carolina in the middle), region, and partisanship. In this post, though, I’ll just focus on North Carolina.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

"Late" Absentee by Mail Voters: Who Are They?

By Michael Bitzer

With the passage in the state senate of Bill 326, the move to require absentee by mail ballots by received by Election Day, instead of three days afterwards, has cleared half a legislative hurdle. This legislation was brought about due to the controversy over the extension in 2020's election of receiving absentee by mail ballots from three days after the election to nine days. 

But how big an issue are mail-in ballots arriving after Election Day in North Carolina? Luckily, the N.C. State Board of Elections' public data allows us to see how many mail-in ballots were received and accepted after election day and what kind of partisan (and other) dynamics, if any, are at work. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

An Early Look at NC's Primaries for the Open US Senate Seat

By Susan Roberts and Michael Bitzer

Recent attention to former President Donald Trump’s endorsement of Representative Ted Budd (R-NC 13) for the Republican nomination to North Carolina's U.S. Senate seat is instructive for several reasons. Beyond sending a cue to Republican primary voters of who the former president supports, perhaps most important aspect is the significance of NC as a battleground state and the fact that the seat could be one that determines control of the Senate itself.

But for both the Republican and Democratic primaries, important dynamics also weigh in on who will claim each party's nomination for what many consider a national race centered once again in the Old North State. We take a look at the general dynamics of mid-term elections, with an introductory focus on the primary battles shaping up in both parties for the 2022 contest. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

A “Perfect Storm” for Pro-Life Activists?

By Susan Roberts

Conservative attacks on reproductive rights are once again in the news. Headlines were made when Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court, and pro-choice advocates could only imagine the restrictions on access to abortion that would result. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey made headlines by enacting the nation’s most restrictive bill on prevention of abortion at the sign of a fetal heartbeat, and pro-lifers anticipated a snowball effect of similar pieces of legislation around the country. 

Most recently, Arizona GOP legislator Walter Blackman made headlines when he said his pro-life proposal was “perfect” because it would prosecute women having abortion for homicide, and providers characterized the legislation as “nothing less than appalling.”  Indeed, pro-life advocates are very encouraged, and pro-choice activists are very worried.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Can You "Claim Credit" When You Voted Against The Bill? Yes. Yes You Can.

By Michael Bitzer

Following passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, which contains the latest round of stimulus checks and other policy initiatives, Republican Representative Madison Cawthorn, of North Carolina's Eleventh Congressional District, sent two tweets announcing several grants issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and funded through the ARA that would impact his western North Carolina district:

This is a classic example, from political science research, of 'credit claiming' by legislators to send cues and signals to their constituents (especially to the voters back home) of the member's legislative impact for the district. 

And yet, on the actual vote for the ARA, Cawthorn was a "nay" vote, voting against the legislation by proxy, and issued a statement that read, in part:

Friday, March 19, 2021

What Might SB 326 Mean in Practice?

By Christopher Cooper

The "Election Integrity Act," SB 326 was filed in the NC Senate on March 18, 2021 by Senators Daniel, Newton, and Hise. The bill has a number of provisions, including (1) "prohibit[ing] the state board of elections and county boards of elections from accepting private monetary donations for certain purposes," (2) "appropriat[ing] funds to establish a program to identity and assist voters needing photo identification",  (3) "amend[ing] the date by which a voter must request an absentee ballot, and (4) amending the date by which a "mail-in absentee ballot must be received."

While the first two provisions are important and worthy of study, the third and fourth policy changes are ready-made for the type of empirical analysis that we try to provide on this blog. In this brief entry, I report results from a simple simulation of whose votes would not have been counted and who's would have been rejected in the past two General Elections if SB 326 had been the law.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Special Event: Levine Museum of the New South's "What is it going to take? Overthrowing Democracy"

By Michael Bitzer

On Tuesday, March 16, beginning at 7 PM, I'll have the pleasure of talking with David Zucchino about his book, "Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy." The event is part of the Levine Museum of the New South's series on "What Is It Going To Take? Overthrowing Democracy," which attempts to place the January 6th insurrection into historical and modern context.

The event is free, and will be streamed on the museum's webpage, YouTube account, and Facebook page

Monday, March 8, 2021

Voting Rights Hanging in the Balance

By Susan Roberts

Following the historic turnout in Election 2020, states across the country are contemplating or crafting legislation to change access to the ballot box. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, these restrictive proposals are born of the claims of voter and election fraud widely circulated by President Trump and his supporters. The Brennan Center, the go-to tracker of such legislation, estimates that around 240 pieces of restrictive legislation have been introduced in 43 states. Moreover, these proposed regulations are not limited to “swing” or “battleground” states. As of March 4, North Carolina has not passed any such legislation this year, but given controversial efforts in the last ten years, it may be simply a matter of time until such proposals come to the General Assembly.

By and large, there was agreement by state officials that 2020 was one of the most free and fair elections in recent memory. Indeed, a recent report from The Hoover Institution, an influential and conservative think tank, used rigorous statistical modeling to evaluate the claims of election illegalities and found no validity to support fraud allegations. The failure of the over fifty lawsuits contesting elections results further debunks claims of election corruption.

Four considerations can shed light on the issue of voting rights changes following Election 2020: (1) the number and scope of proposed regulations, (2) the pending Supreme Court case of Bronovich v. Democratic National Committee, (3) the package of proposed changes in Georgia, and (4) the potential long term impact of the claims of voter fraud.