Monday, May 16, 2022

With NC's early voting done, It's Election Time/Day for NC's Primary

By Michael Bitzer and Chris Cooper

With this past weekend's close of early, in-person voting for North Carolina's May 17 primary, we thought we'd revisit some of our thinking from last week and add in a few more data points (thanks to the great work by the N.C. State Board of Elections and the various counties with their public files) and observations (and questions) about what we might see come Tuesday's election.

Early Voting Sets a Mid-Term Primary Record

First, an overview of where things ended up with North Carolinians casting early votes, and boy did they ever. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Tentative Lessons from Early Voting in NC One Week From Election Day

By Chris Cooper and Michael Bitzer

While election day isn't until a week from today, it's been more than 40 days since the first ballot was accepted in North Carolina and over a week since the first person walked into an early voting site and cast an in-person ballot. So, it seems like a good time to take an early, preliminary, provisional, tentative assessment of what we can glean from the data thus far. So, with all of the caveats we can muster, here are some observations that we think we know about the 2022 electorate thus far.* 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

What Can We Expect for NC's May Primary Election?

By Michael Bitzer

With the start of early, in-person voting beginning on Thursday, April 28 for the May 17th North Carolina primary election, we can look back at the past five elections to perhaps see what kind of trends are present when it comes to how many votes may be cast, and what method we should expect when voters cast their ballots. 

So How Many Will Show Up for May 17?

First, what might we expect when it comes to the number of voters likely participating in this year's primary elections?

For both parties, there are some distinct trends when it comes to primaries held in presidential versus mid-term years. In presidential years, generally North Carolina sees about one million registered voters participate in each primary (for about two million total), depending on the competitiveness of the top-of-the-ballot contest. 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

It Finally Happened: NC's Unaffiliated Voters Take Command

by Michael Bitzer and Christopher Cooper

Last week, the number of registered Unaffiliated voters passed the number of Democratic voters to make Unaffiliated the largest group of registered voters in NC politics. This is a topic that we've written about recently as have some of the state's best journalists. Given the importance of last week's partisan eclipse, we thought it would be a good time to take an overview of what the data tell us about Unaffiliated voters in North Carolina.


As you can see from the graph below, the rise of Unaffiliated voters has been a long build that has only recently come to fruition. Unaffiliated voters hovered around 5 percent of the North Carolina electorate from 1977 (when the Unaffiliated category was first established) until 1988 when the Republicans first opened their primaries up to Unaffiliated voters. Prior to 1988, registrants were welcome to register as Unaffiliated, but doing so would lock them out of voting in any primary. 

Monday, March 14, 2022

Understanding District Partisan Lean in 2022: A Case for Chilling Out

 by Christopher Cooper

At long last, we know the details of North Carolina's State House, State Senate, and Congressional districts. Soon after they were enacted, think tanks, academics and journalists began to analyze how these districts leaned according to various partisan metrics. Sometimes these competing metrics can get a little confusing, so I'll review a few of them below (note: not an exhaustive list), describing how they are calculated. The bottom line, however, is that which metric you choose doesn't matter much in how you understand the partisan lean of North Carolina's districts--a point that I'll review in greater detail below. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Please Ignore Internal Polls

 by Christopher Cooper

As the primary season kicks into full gear, we can expect a barrage of internal polls purporting to show one candidate with a “commanding lead” in the upcoming primary. One such poll from Madison Cawthorn made the rounds yesterday. The press release reporting the results noted that Cawthorn “dominates” the NC-11 primary field and “holds an 80% GOP approval rating”(1).


My goal here is simple: to convince you to ignore internal polls. I’ll use Cawthorn’s recent internal poll as an example, but this is not a phenomenon limited to Madison Cawthorn or to the Republican Party. I’ve seen untrustworthy internal polls from Democrats, Republicans, and Unaffiliated candidates. The rare Green or Libertarian candidate who can afford internal polling is subject to the same critiques.


Primary election internal polling is unreliable and uninformative because of three factors: selection, lack of disclosure, and uncertainty.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Follow the Money: How Campaign Finance Disclosure Can Help Us Be Better Citizens

By Christopher Cooper

Four times a year, people running for office file paperwork detailing how much campaign money they took in, where it came from, and how they spent it. You don’t need to file a FOIA request and you don’t need any special access or a secret decoder ring to get the information--simply the ability to navigate a web browser here and here and commence to sleuthing. I wish we had better disclosure laws and the data aren’t perfect, but what is available can help you better understand who's running for office, who they depend on, and what their spending says about them.


Thursday, January 6, 2022

Thoughts on January 6th

By Michael Bitzer

Note: I write only for myself, and not for my affiliated institution nor for my colleagues who also contribute and are associated with this blog. 

Much has been written about the tragic day of January 6, 2021, a day that should live in comparable historical view with September 11, 2001 and December 7, 1941. 

As someone who studies both American politics and history, the self-coup and insurrection of a year ago came as a sickening shock, but unfortunately, not a surprise.

Not a surprise because I suspected violence would occur. Throughout 2020, I often hoped and thought it wouldn't, but was realistic to know that the reality could happen. With all of the fuel being poured onto a deeply divided and polarized electorate and nation over 2020, violence likely would come in the form of what this nation had seen before, namely in the form of attempted, or God-forbid actual, political assassination. 

But a different political assassination occurred that day. An attempted political assassination of our form of governance. Of our democratic republic. Of our 'rule of law.' Of the unwritten and undergirding rules and norms, namely 'we lost this election, but we live to fight another one in the future.' Of resolving political conflict, not through the bullet, but through the ballot. 

Watching January 6, 2021 unfold, I wasn't just a political scientist who studies the United States of America, but as a citizen. 

I recall the horror, the recoiling, the utter shock and then anger and outrage of watching the bastion of our self-governance and the citadel of our constitutional republic defiled.

Of our process of peaceful transition of power dishonored. 

Of our will, as a people, desecrated.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Year in Review and Looking Forward for North Carolina's 7.2 Million Voters

By Michael Bitzer

With the dawn of a new year, the race to the November general election is (with a primary blip) well underway. And as North Carolina prepares for yet another competitive mid-term election environment, a review of where the state's voter pool stands, and the changes last year brought about, is in order. This post takes a look at where North Carolina's voter pool stands at the beginning of mid-term election year and who registered and switched parties in 2021.

2022 Begins with 7.2 Million NC Voters

Using the NC State Board of Elections data set for the December 25, 2021 (a data set wasn't available on Saturday, Jan. 1), the 7.2 million registered voters continue some key trends that have been developing over time, and one important trend will likely come to fruition in the early part of the new year.

For comparison, I used the January 9, 2021 voter registration data, which saw registered Democrats at 35.5 percent of the total pool, with registered unaffiliated voters at 33.2 percent and registered Republicans at 30.6 percent. 

As of December 25, registered Democrats slipped to 34.7 percent, unaffiliateds rose to 34.3 percent, and Republicans were marginally down to 30.3 percent.