Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017's End of the Year Analysis of NC's Voter Registration Pool

As has been my want over the past few years, I'm going to present a "here's where we stand" analysis of the voter registration pool in the Old North State. While a lot of folks are making their 2018 predictions, I've decided to stay away from the mindless "here's what's going to happen" in the new year because if the past three years have taught us anything about politics, it is that punditry predictions are usually pointless.

So, with that said, North Carolina's voter registration pool ends the year with 6.8 million registered voters (active and inactive voters), a decrease of 79,000 voters (or down 1.1 percent) from the November 2016 pool. Of these 6.8 million, 39 percent are registered with the Democratic Party, 31 percent are registered unaffiliated, and 30 percent are registered Republican, with less than one percent registered Libertarian (I'll be focusing these analysis and charts on the big three registration groups).  This year was a notable one in the fact that registered unaffiliated voters surpassed registered Republicans to claim the second spot in the Old North State.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

UPDATED: Charlotte's Mayoral Election: Too Close to Call or Repeating Past Democratic Advantages?

11-5-17: Updated to reflect latest NC BoE Numbers for absentee ballots as of November 6, 2017:

While it's an "odd year," elections in America happen every year. But in the Old North State, the major elections in 2017 are at the most local level: mayoral, city council, even school boards. And in the region that I live in, Charlotte's mayoral election has taken on a unique perspective, from what appears by one poll to be a considerably tight race in an urban area that has trended overwhelmingly Democratic in the past few years.

Tuesday's election will focus on Mecklenburg County (by results) and the Charlotte city elections, but with some investigation and data crunching, some early voting trends can be seen within the context of the registered voter pool within the city limits of the Queen City.

Based on the North Carolina State Board of Election's voter registration numbers from Saturday, November 4, the city of Charlotte's total number of registered active and inactive voters is 551,454, with registered Democrats having 48 percent of the pool, registered unaffiliated voters at 31 percent, and registered Republicans with 21 percent (registered Libertarians are barely one percent of the pool and votes being cast, so this analysis will focus on the big three registration factions).

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Follow Up on NC's Registered Unaffiliated Voters: Where Are They?

With some more data crunching, I have looked at the 100 counties and ranked order the percentage of registered unaffiliated voters in each. The below map demonstrates different percentages of unaffiliated voters in each county:

In breaking down the generational cohorts, there are some counties where Millennials are truly driving the rise of unaffiliated registered voter (in the state, an average of 40% of Millennials are registered unaffiliated):

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

"We're #2!": Registered Unaffiliated Voters in North Carolina

It was this past Saturday that many who track NC politics had been waiting for--well, maybe 3 or 4 of us, but we saw it coming. Saturday's NC State Board of Elections data file showed that registered unaffiliated voters now outnumber registered Republicans statewide, and working towards the level of registered Democrats.

In looking at the September 9, 2017 data of the 6.7 million registered voters in the Old North State, registered unaffiliated voters were a total of 55 voters now above registered Republicans, marking the first time in the state's history that one of the two major parties was surpassed by voters who eschewed a party label in their voter registration.

So a couple of questions: first, where did this "rise of the unaffiliated" come from?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Analysis of Generations in the 2016 Election: Policy and Issue Differences Among the Generations

As a second post to yesterday's analysis on 2016's election and generations, the policy differences and issue stances of the four cohorts--Millennials (born after 1981), Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1980), Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1965), and the Greatest Generation (born before 1945)--show key differences among the generational cohorts, much like the partisan and ideological perspectives.

First, much was made about the economic situation of the country. In the ANES 2016 data, a "retrospective" economic question was asked: has the economy gotten better, worse, or about the same since 2008?

Only the Greatest generation had a plurality that rated the economy worse than eight years ago, while Millennials had the strongest percentage of responses that the economy was better than when Obama took office.

With the controversy in North Carolina over House Bill 2, the state law that denied local governments the ability to enact non-discrimination ordinances to include transgender citizens, ANES asked a question regarding transgender citizens and policies regarding public facilities (bathrooms).

Only Millennials had a majority respond that transgender persons should be allowed to use the bathrooms of their identified gender, with both Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation having at least a ten-point difference to the majority of using the bathroom of the gender they were born with.

On another issue involving the LGBTQ community, following the U.S. Supreme Court's sanctioning of same-sex marriages, the issue of adoption by gay couples has become another point of policy controversy.

While solid majorities in all four generational cohorts believed that gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt, Millennials held the highest percentage of any cohort, while Greatest was the lowest. This may be related to the strength of religious faith among older voters, as documented by church attendance in another ANES question:

Pluralities of Millennials and Gen Xers reported attending church only a few times a year, while a solid majority of Greatest Generation reported attending church every week.

As one of the most controversial issues of the 2016 campaign, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) generated a great deal of interest on both sides. But when asked about the effect of the ACA on health care costs, all four generations held similar beliefs.

All four generational cohorts held majority opinions that the ACA increased health care costs, but Millennials were over ten points lower than older voters in holding that belief.

With some states legalizing the sale and regulation of marijuana, the ANES asked whether marijuana should be legalized:

With a majority of Millennials favoring while those of the Greatest Generation opposing legalization of marijuana, pluralities of both Gen Xers and Baby Boomers favored the policy.

Another controversial proposal, espoused by Republican Donald Trump, was to build a wall between the United States and Mexico.

While pluralities of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers opposed the policy and a majority of Millennials were opposed, a slight plurality of Greatest Generation favored Trump's policy.

Another issue raised by the Republican presidential candidate was to close off the United States to Syrian refugees.

While no generational cohort supported the policy of allowing Syrian refugees into the nation, Millennials were the closest in their support-to-opposition, while older respondents were solidly oppose to the policy of allowing refugees from Syria into the U.S.

For many Republicans, the vacant Supreme Court seat of the late Antonin Scalia, and Obama's selection of Merrick Garland to fill the seat, was an important issue in the election.

With the strong majority support from Millennials for a Senate vote on Garland as the nominee, along with majority support from Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, it was only the Greatest Generation that was opposed to giving a vote to Garland and holding the seat open for the future president.

Finally, one of the interesting divisions between the Greatest Generation and the other generations was over government reducing income inequality:

With Millennials having the greatest support for favoring government reducing income inequality, the Greatest Generation had a bare plurality oppose such a policy.

Finally, I'll end with some issues regarding the various perceptions in the 2016 election.

First, the notion that the "world is changing and we should adjust":

Not surprising, those under the age of 50ish were more likely to either strongly or somewhat agree that change is warranted, while those over 50 disagreed with the statement.

When asked if "newer lifestyles are breaking down society," each generation had at least a plurality opinion:

But interesting, it was Baby Boomers (children of the 1960s) and the Greatest Generation that held majority views agreeing with the breaking of society by newer lifestyles.

All four generational cohorts agreed (strongly or somewhat) with the statement that the "country needs a strong leader to take us back to the true path," but again, the divisions between the younger generation and the older generation were most pronounced.

Finally, the belief in government's role (either that less government is better or that government should be doing more) has a significant divide between the youngest and oldest generation:

Similar to the partisan and ideological findings among the generations in the previous post, policy and perspectives also seem to create a sense of generational divide. As noted in the previous posting, Baby Boomers and Millennials are the two largest cohorts in last year's electorate, and the likelihood is that Millennials will take the plurality in the next presidential election. Whether their policy views will shape or determine future presidential candidates and party platforms is up for debate, but the sense of a shift in policy and perspectives coming should not surprise anyone paying attention in this hyper-polarized political environment of American politics.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Analysis of Generations in the 2016 Election: Partisanship, Ideology, Vote Choice, and Feelings Toward Clinton & Trump

In exploring more about the "generational shift" occurring in North Carolina politics (particularly from a voter registration and turnout approach--see previous posts on this blog site), I wanted to take a larger view of the differences between Millennials (those born after 1980) and Baby Boomers (those born between 1945 and 1965), with Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1980) and the Greatest Generation (born before 1945).

One invaluable data resource to explore these differences is the 2016 American National Election Study, a massive survey of over 4,000 individuals who are contacted both before and after a presidential election. This survey asks a battery of questions, not just on politics but a variety of policy questions and a range of issues.

For those who would like to use the 2016 ANES data, the folks at UC-Berkeley have developed a website that allows users to put in various questions (by first finding the variable) from the survey and run cross-tabs to analyze the survey pool (it's a little tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it, you can spend a great deal of time running numbers).

For example, if you wanted to "recode" the "age" question of the respondents into generations (in 2016, Millennials were 18-35; Generation Xers were 36-51; Baby Boomers were 52-71; and Greatest Generation members were 72-90), you would find that the 2016 pool ("electorate") broke down into the following generational cohorts:

Using this division of the 2016 ANES data, I began to run cross-tabs of the data by different characteristics and policy questions asked in the survey. For example, what was the party self-identification by the generations?

Democrats (those who identify as strong, not strong, and leaners combined) are a plurality of both Millennials and Gen Xers, while Baby Boomers have a nearly even divide between the two political parties. Members of the Greatest Generation have a plurality of Republican self-identification. Barely a third of Millennials self-identify with the GOP, while nearly 18 percent of the youngest generation don't identify with either political party.

Along with partisan identification is ideological self-identification; the first analysis that I ran included the response for "haven't thought about it" to reflect possible uncertainty of one's ideological perspective (conservative, liberal, moderate, or haven't thought about it):

Not surprising, Millennials have the largest portion within a cohort that "haven't thought about it," while the oldest voters (Baby Boomers and the Greatest) have the lowest portions within their cohorts of "undecided" ideological identification.

Dropping the "undecideds/unknowns" out of the analysis paints an ideological picture of the four cohorts:

Conservatives claim a plurality of Baby Boomers (43.8 percent) and a majority of the Greatest Generation (50.9 percent), while Gen Xers are nearly evenly divided amongst the three categories. A plurality of Millennials, as documented in other surveys such as the Pew Research Center, are liberal in their ideology. But will Millennials potentially grow "more conservative" to match their older cohorts when they reach 50 years and older?

To compare, I went to the 2004 ANES Survey and, adjusting for the age categories, ran a comparison of ideological self-identification between the two election surveys.

While the oldest Millennials in 2004 were only 23 years old, as compared to 35 years old in 2016, there was an increase of Millennials who identified as conservative over the twelve year period, at the expense of those who identified as "moderate;" liberal identification remained fairly stable. Among the Greatest Generation, however, a substantial increase (10 points) in conservative ideological self-identification occurred between 2004 and 2016, again at the expense of those who identified as moderates.

Having looked at both the partisan and ideological self-identification of the generations, I looked at the presidential vote choice among the cohorts:

The almost mirror images among Millennials and Greatest generation cohorts is pretty striking: while nearly 55 percent of Millennials cast their ballots for Clinton, nearly 58 percent of the Greatest Generation went for Trump. While there was a 17 percentage vote gap between Greatest Generation voters for the two candidates, the 20 percentage vote gap among Millennials is significant, taking into account the likelihood that they are more liberal and more Democratic in identification.

The greatest vote share among the cohorts going to third-party candidates was, not surprisingly, among Millennial voters.

Much was made about the unpopularity of both major party's candidates. In looking at two questions about the presidential candidates and the respondents' feelings about the candidates, another generational divide emerged: first, as demonstrated in the combined "feelings thermometers" when asked about both Clinton and Trump.

A feeling thermometer asks a respondent, on a scale of zero to 100 (zero being ice cold, 100 being burning hot), to state a number as to how they felt about each candidate. In classifying "warmth" as being any response over 55 and "cool" as being any response under 45, I grouped each generation's responses to both candidates into the following "warmth" and "coolness" towards both Trump and Clinton.

While all four groups saw consistently similar responses to Clinton, typically at 50 to 53 "warmth" and 40 "cool," it was the generational differences in responding to Trump that stands out: while Millennials were barely more "warm" than "cool" to the GOP candidate, the 30 to 40 percentage gap among warmth and coolness by Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation is striking.

Another set of questions asked about whether the respondents were "never proud of" either candidate or were "always disgusted by" a candidate.

While all generations were fairly consistent in their responses to the questions regarding "never proud of" or "always disgusted by" Hillary Clinton, the generational differences among the responses to Donald Trump shows that Millennials were the generation showing the greatest level of loss of pride in Trump and "always disgusted by" the GOP candidate.

But even with this level of disgust by Millennials, it clearly did not translate into enthusiasm in their voting:

Millennials had the lowest level of "strong preference" for their presidential candidate among the cohorts, while the Greatest Generation had three-fourths of respondents express strong preference for their respective candidate.

One of the more interesting findings regarding voting was a question posed in the ANES regarding the election integrity: does the respondent believe that the votes are being counted fairly?

For all of the talk about vote and ballot integrity, it was Millennials who had the lowest outlook on whether their vote would be counted fairly:

To wrap up, much of this ANES data is in line with another major study of the generational divide in American politics from the Pew Research Center. While older voters have higher participation rates than younger voters, and thus dominate the electoral fortunes, the tectonic shift that is currently underway in the country will reshape the political landscape.

In the next blog post, I'll be looking at this generational divide through the lenses of various policy issues and concerns, such as the state of the 2016 economy, transgender bathroom policy, the ACA's (Obamacare's) effect on health care costs, marijuana policy, and the role of government.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Half way through 2017, a look at NC's voter pool

As we enter the dog days of summer, I thought it would be good to take a look at the latest figures for the North Carolina registered voter pool at the half-way point of 2017, with data courtesy of the NC State Board of Elections.

First, the total pool of active and inactive voters stands at 6.7 million voters, down 2.5 percent from the 6.9 million recorded on January 1.

In the state, registering voters selected one of four party designations: Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or unaffiliated. Over the recent past, the fastest growing group in terms of party registration has been the "unaffiliated" (more on this later). To date, the voter pool divides into the following party registration: