North Carolina’s Two Million Unaffiliated Voters Will Decide the Winners in All 18 Statewide Races in 2016 August 24, 2016 Vol. IX, No. 10 3:13 pm Civitas Annual Unaffiliated Poll Results On August 18, 2016, I was honored to serve as guest commentator for the Civitas luncheon featuring their annual North Carolina
North Carolina’s Two Million Unaffiliated Voters Will Decide the Winners in All 18 Statewide Races in 2016
August 24, 2016 Vol. IX, No. 10 3:13 pm
Civitas Annual Unaffiliated Poll Results
On August 18, 2016, I was honored to serve as guest commentator for the Civitas luncheon featuring their annual North Carolina Unaffiliated Voters Poll. The Civitas Unaffiliated Voters Poll is critical insider political information in light of the fact that, per the State Board of Elections, 1,951,075 voters in North Carolina are registered Unaffiliated. Those near-two-million voters will decide the winners in all 18 statewide races in North Carolina this fall.
Unaffiliated voters are now 29% of all registered voters in the state, with Democrats at 40% (2,665,330) and Republicans at 30% (2,023,603). There are 28,781 Libertarians.
According to the Civitas survey, 1-in-4 Unaffiliated voters in North Carolina switched from the Republican Party; an almost equal number (22%) switched from the Democratic Party.
But, the true balance of the partisan market share in our state is not in how voters are registered, it is in how they are likely to vote. If you adjust the voter registration totals by the political leanings of Unaffiliated voters, the state becomes perfectly balanced, as seen in Gallup’s State of the States study, at 41% Democratic and 41% Republican.
Time was, Republicans gained a political advantage in North Carolina by adding conservative Democrats. Now, only about 15% of Democrats are predictably Republican. Today, it is the Republican-leaning Unaffiliated voters who give GOP statewide candidates even odds.
Bottom line: North Carolina’s Unaffiliated voters will decide the winners of all 18 statewide races on November 8, 2016. The races are: U.S. President, U.S. Senate, N.C. Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Auditor, Commissioner of Agriculture, Commissioner of Insurance, Commissioner of Labor, Secretary of State, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Treasurer, Supreme Court Justice (Bob Edmunds’ seat), and 5 seats on the N.C. Court of Appeals.
GOP Social Issues Help Dems with Urban, Young & Unaffiliated Voters
In general, North Carolina Unaffiliated voters are more Conservative (49%) than Moderate (33%) or Liberal (15%). That’s because on fiscal issues, like taxes and government spending, Unaffiliated voters are more Conservative (52%) than either Moderate (34%) or Liberal (10%).
However, on social issues, like abortion and marriage, Unaffiliated voters are twice as Liberal (31%). Only 40% consider themselves Conservative on social issues, with 26% saying they are Moderate. That’s 57% who are either Moderate (26%) or Liberal (31%).
If North Carolina Republican leaders aren’t careful, social issues will be their downfall.
Almost all of the growth in new voters in North Carolina is among 3 groups who are the least likely to be conservative on social issues: Urban voters (Wake and Mecklenburg counties have as many voters as the lowest 61 counties), Younger voters (Census Bureau says Millennials now outnumber Baby Boomers in the U.S. 75.4 million to 74.9 million), and Unaffiliated voters (29% of all North Carolina voters; 58% of all new registrations since January 2, 2016).
Most of the big cities in North Carolina, and around the nation for that matter, are run by Democrats. Urban voters prefer Democrats over Republicans because the quality of life in cities is dependent on government investment. City dwellers like museums, centers for the performing arts, jogging paths, sports arenas, great schools, parks and public transportation.
As to Millennials, every political study I have seen this year on voters born since 1980 shows that they are becoming one of the most liberal generations in American history, especially on social issues. The 50th anniversary study of American freshman by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA concludes that “the highest percent of freshmen since 1973 say they are left of center.” Millennials are far more inclined to support Democrats over Republicans.
The USA Today – Rock the Vote survey of Millennial voters, conducted August 5-10, 2016, shows that in a four-way race, Hillary Clinton would beat Donald Trump by 50% to 18% among the nation’s youngest voters, with 11% supporting Libertarian Gary Johnson and 4% backing Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
Now, because of social issues, you can add Unaffiliated voters in North Carolina to Urban voters and Millennials as those most persuadable to vote Democratic over Republicans.
The best hope in 2016 for Democrats to regain their political standing in North Carolina’s executive and judicial branches of government is to tie Republicans to conservative social issues among urban voters, Millennial’s and voters registered Unaffiliated.
Economy/Jobs and Improving Public Education Key to GOP Success
The best hope in 2016 for Republicans to maintain their political advantage in North Carolina’s executive and judicial offices is to claim ownership of the two categories of most importance to Unaffiliated voters, Economy/Jobs and Improving Public Education.
According to the new Civitas poll, an overwhelming 54% of Unaffiliated voters said that the highest priority of state government should be Economy/Jobs (29%) and Improving Public Education (25%). No other issue is even remotely close.
Fortunately for Republicans running in executive and legislative races, the list of accomplishments under the category headings of Economy/Jobs and Improving Public Education are the envy of most state government leaders throughout the United States. Here are a few:
- $2 billion infrastructure bond approved by voters
- Unemployment down to 4.7%
- $4.4 billion in tax relief
- Paid off $2.5 billion unemployment insurance debt
- $1.5 billion rainy day fund
- Maintained AAA bond rating
- Average teacher pay over $50,000
- Education budgets largest in history
- High school graduation rates at all-time high
- Winner of Site Selection’s 2016 Prosperity Cup (#1 Business Competitiveness)
Perhaps that list of economic and educational accomplishments is why Unaffiliated voters in the August 2016 Civitas survey have a more favorable (46%) than unfavorable (40%) impression of Republican Governor Pat McCrory.
However, since I have learned the hard way to never rely on the results of a single poll, I decided to check the most recent Public Policy Polling statewide survey (Aug. 5-7; Likely voters) to see what Independent voters thought about McCrory (PPP is a Democratic polling firm).
- McCrory Job Approval: 47% of Independent voters “Approve;” 42% Disapprove
- 42% of Independent voters said they support Republican Pat McCrory for Governor; only 27% said that they support Democrat Roy Cooper for Governor
- Republican U.S. Senator Richard Burr has a 42% to 23% advantage among Independent voters over Democrat Deborah Ross
Once again, it is quite significant that the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling confirms the finding in the Civitas poll that Republican Governor Pat McCrory and Republican U.S. Senator Richard Burr are favored by Unaffiliated/Independent voters over Democrat Roy Cooper and Democrat Deborah Ross respectively by wide margins well outside of the margin of error.
In order for Republicans to win most of the 18 statewide races on the ballot this fall in North Carolina, it is imperative that they build on the advantages among Unaffiliated voters as shown in the Civitas statewide poll. That can be achieved by emphasizing economic and educational accomplishments under Republican leadership during the last four years.
In order for Democrats to win most of the statewide races this fall, they must persuade Unaffiliated/Independent voters that Republicans had little to do with the state’s economic recovery; that they are weakening the states 100-year commitment to public education.
The federal and state executive and judicial branches are at stake this November. The majorities on the North Carolina Supreme Court and Court of Appeals will be either a Republican or Democratic. Vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court will be filled by liberals or conservatives.
In the final analysis, North Carolina’s nearly-two-million Unaffiliated voters will decide the winners of all 18 statewide races in this fall’s General Election.
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