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.