Rule #9: Win North Carolina’s Prized Independent Voters by “Improving Public Education” to a Globally Competitive Standard

by johndavis, September 9, 2013

Top 10 Keys for NC Democratic Political Recovery Rule #9: Win North Carolina’s Prized Independent Voters by “Improving Public Education” to a Globally Competitive Standard September 9, 2013        Vol. VI, No. 19           11:13 pm Political Mischief is NOT Unconstitutional I had the pleasure on Wednesday, August 26, 2013 of being the guest commentator at a Civitas
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Top 10 Keys for NC Democratic Political Recovery


Rule #9: Win North Carolina’s Prized Independent Voters by “Improving Public Education” to a Globally Competitive Standard


September 9, 2013        Vol. VI, No. 19           11:13 pm


Political Mischief is NOT Unconstitutional

I had the pleasure on Wednesday, August 26, 2013 of being the guest commentator at a Civitas Institute luncheon during which they presented the results of their annual statewide poll of North Carolina’s independent “Unaffiliated” voters, now numbering 1,688,079, or 26% of all voters.  The poll, conducted from August 19-20, 2013, shows that North Carolina’s Unaffiliated voters tend to shift their weight to the left on the social policy scales and to the right on economic policy.

If this were an era during which the most important concerns of voters fell under the broad category of social policy issues, then Democrats would have great potential for political recovery using issues like the campaign election reforms enacted by Republican lawmakers this year.  But it’s not.

We live in an era of global economic correction; an era that jealously demands attention to corrective economic policy.  An era in which all polls from all sources show that jobs and the economy are the issues about which Americans are most concerned.  An era in which reforming public education to globally competitive standards is an economic imperative.

The good news for state Democrats is that among the state’s prized 1,688,079 Unaffiliated voters, “Improving Public Education” is seen as important as “Economy and Jobs” on the list of issues they think the North Carolina General Assembly should make the “highest priority.”

  • In 2010, 41% of NC Unaffiliated voters said the highest state legislative priority should be “Economy and Jobs,” while only 15% said “Improving Public Education.”
  • In 2013, 32% of NC Unaffiliated voters said the highest state legislative priority should be “Economy and Jobs,” and 32% said “Improving Public Education.” 

But what are Democrats focused on?  Republican election law reform.

Despite desperate attempts by North Carolina Democrats to weaken state Republicans by convincing the world that the GOP’s new election laws have returned the state to its roots in social injustice, all they have done is brought attention to just how out-of-touch they are with what’s important to North Carolina voters; especially the state’s 1,688,079 Unaffiliated voters.

But let’s assume for a minute that there was a bit of political mischievousness by Republican Senate and House members with the election law reform package.  Let’s assume that they, like the Democrats before them, enacted election laws that were less favorable to their opponent’s constituencies.

Ladies and gentlemen, an announcement if I may:  Political mischief is not unconstitutional.

The NAACP and other like-minded Democratic organizations are wasting their resources in an attempt to regain political power in North Carolina by demonizing Republicans on matters like election laws, when in fact all that Republicans have done is bring the state in line with laws in most other states.

Becki Gray, VP for Outreach at the John Locke Foundation, enumerates the overwhelming number of states that have the very same election laws as North Carolina in a story in the September 5, 2013 Carolina Journal titled, N.C. Maintains Fairly Liberal Voting Laws.  According to Gray:

  • NC is one of 32 states allowing early voting (15 states do not allow early voting)
  • NC is one of 34 states requiring voters to present identification at the polls
  • NC is one of 37 states that do not allow straight-party voting
  • NC is one of 37 states that do not offer public funds to political candidates
  • NC is one of 40 states that do not allow same-day voter registration when voting
  • NC is one of 45 states that do not allow 16-and-17-year-olds to register before they are 18

Even if changing the number of early voting days from 17 to 10 and ending same-day registration and straight ticket voting makes voting less convenient, inconvenience is not a constitutional issue.  Frankly, anyone who can’t find time to vote in North Carolina with laws as liberal and voter-friendly as ours is irresponsible.  Unfortunately, irresponsibility is not a constitutional issue either.

If Democrats want to re-establish their political standing, they must do a better job than Republicans of persuading the state’s 1,688,079 Unaffiliated voters that the Democratic Party offers the best hope for reforming public education to the new demands of global economic competitiveness.

This report is the ninth in a 10-part series on the keys to political recovery for North Carolina Democrats.  As with the previous series on the keys to Republican political longevity, no state legislator or legislative staff member was interviewed.  All interviews were conducted with the promise of anonymity.  The rules thus far are:

  • Rule #1: If You want to Lead a Purple, Business-Friendly State, You have to Recruit a Purple, Business-Friendly Slate.
  • Rule #2: It's All About Who Does the Asking; Get the Right Person to Ask the Right Person to do the Right Task.
  • Rule #3 Moral Mondays - A Therapeutic Dose of Political Energy Restoring Rhythm to the Heart of the Democratic Party.
  • Rule #4:  Investors will Return to the Party of Bold, Visionary Leaders and Ideas when it has Bold, Visionary Leaders and Ideas.
  • Rule #5:  There is Gold to be Mined among Professional Women for the Next Generation of Candidates and Campaign Leaders.
  • Rule #6:  Stale Bread and Butter Social Issues won’t Nourish Moderate Voters Hungry for a Meat and Potatoes Economy.
  • Rule #7: Where are the others? The Next Generation of Young Democratic Candidates and Party Leaders
  • Rule #8: A New Covenant with North Carolina Voters Modeled on an Old 1991 Speech by Bill Clinton on Accountability and Responsibility 

Today, I am adding Rule #9: Win North Carolina’s Prized Independent Voters by “Improving Public Education” to a Globally Competitive Standard.

Some Good News for Democrats in Civitas Poll

I must acknowledge that there was a time years ago that I was a bit suspicious about the objectivity of the Civitas polls because they are funded by conservative advocates.  However, since the fall of 2008, when Civitas’ polls consistently mirrored the Democrat-friendly Public Policy Polling survey results showing Barack Obama neck and neck with John McCain in North Carolina, I have not doubted the reliability of their opinion research.  More evidence of the reliability of the Civitas polls can be seen in the ample amount of good news for Democrats in the August 2013 poll of Unaffiliated voters:

  • If the election for North Carolina state legislature were held today, 39% of Unaffiliated voters would choose the Democrat to only 29% who would choose the Republican (In the August 2012 Unaffiliated voter poll, Republicans led Democrats on this question by 37% to 32%)
  • Unaffiliated voters are split on their views of the North Carolina Democratic Party, with 37% having a “favorable” opinion and 37% an “unfavorable” opinion
  • However, only 30% of Unaffiliated voters have a “favorable” opinion of the North Carolina Republican Party, with 47% having an “unfavorable” opinion 

So, where are Unaffiliated voters getting that unfavorable opinion about the North Carolina Republican Party?  According to the poll, the opinion of Unaffiliated voters was influenced far more by the news coverage of the protests (64% had heard the protests news) than by news coverage of the General Assembly (only 49% had heard the news about the legislature).

And, by almost 3-to-1, Unaffiliated voters believe that the news media was biased in their reporting on the protests in favor of Democrats, with 28% believing that the news media “Favors Democrats over Republicans" to only 10% who believe that the news media "Favors Republicans over Democrats."

You can no longer blame that bias on North Carolina newspaper writers, because only 15% of Unaffiliated voters get their news from local papers.  Like the rest of America, almost all Unaffiliated voters get their political news electronically by way of local TV news (56%), national TV news (40%) and news sources online (33%).

Ideologically, Unaffiliated voters are far more likely to be moderate (44%) or conservative (31%) than liberal (22%). However, they identify more with the Democratic Party (32%) than with the GOP (25%).

So why are Democrats not likely to gain a winning foothold with Unaffiliated voters with their emphasis on demonizing Republicans on election law reform and other social issues?

Some Bad News for Democrats in Civitas Poll

Unaffiliated voters make a dramatic about-face when you ask about their ideology when it comes to issues like "abortion and marriage" as opposed to issues like "taxes and government spending."

  • On fiscal issues, like taxes and spending, only 13% of Unaffiliated voters are Liberal; the rest are either Moderate (39%) or Conservative (43%)
  • On social issues, like abortion and marriage, three times as many Unaffiliated voters considered themselves Liberal (39%); the rest are either Moderate (27%) or Conservative (29%) 

That’s the bad news for Democrats in a nutshell.  They do well on the issues at the bottom of the “most important problems” list, like "abortion and marriage," but fall behind Republicans on the issues at the top of the “most important problems” list like "taxes and government spending."  Other issues of import:

  • 50% of Unaffiliated voters think tax increases "harm economic growth and cause jobs to be lost,” to only 25% who believe that tax increases will improve the economy
  • 56% of Unaffiliated voters support exploring for oil and natural gas on land and off the coast of North Carolina to only 36% who oppose
  • 64% support requiring voters to show a photo ID; 34% oppose 

The biggest ray of hope in the Unaffiliated poll for North Carolina Democrats is the issue of public education.  That is the issue at the top of the list of what Unaffiliated voters remembered most about the news coverage of the political protests.  Education was also the issue at the top of the list of why Unaffiliated voters favored Democrats over Republicans in legislative races, and was tied with “Economy and Jobs” as the issue Unaffiliated voters thought should be the highest legislative priority.

And that’s why today, I am adding Rule #9: Win North Carolina’s Prized Independent Voters by “Improving Public Education” to a Globally Competitive Standard.

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