North Carolina in the 2016 election

I’ve been meaning to do a post based on some really nice empirical analyses of NC for a while now, but haven’t gotten around to it.

First, Nate Silver devoted one of his electoral analyses to the role of North Carolina a few weeks ago.  I especially like the part discussing the demographics of NC and how it is different from other swing states:

it’s a little different than most of the other swing states. Its mix of voters — a combination of college-educated whites (and college students) in Charlotte and the Research Triangle, African-Americans, and often very conservative white evangelicals elsewhere in the state — is distinctive. All right, it fairly closely resembles Virginia and Georgia, although both are barely even swing states at the moment.3. But it isn’t similar to Midwestern states such as Michigan and Wisconsin, which have a far higher proportion of white voters without a college degree. This is particularly true if you also consider religion: the noncollege whites in North Carolina tend to be evangelicals, whereas the Midwest has a lot of groups like middle-class white Catholics.

There’s also a fascinating discussion of how the demographic patterns of states mean their polling/voting is more or less correlated with each other.  In the end, it means that NC really may be a firewall for Clinton:

The result of all those extra CPU cycles is that North Carolina turns out to be a bit more important than you might think — bad news for Trump given the recent polling there.

Also loved Nate Cohn’s in-depth analysis based on the Sienna College poll of NC back in September:

Perhaps no battleground state is as polarized along demographic lines as North Carolina. Mr. Trump has a lead of 53 percent to 28 percent among white voters, most likely his best tally with that group in any of the battleground states. Mrs. Clinton holds the overwhelming support of black voters, at 86 percent to 3 percent in a three-way race…

The state’s white voters are divided as well. Mr. Trump’s advantage with whites stems from a huge margin of 66 percent to 17 percent among white voters without a college degree. Mrs. Clinton’s challenge runs deep: She has a narrow lead of only 46-39 among white voters without a degree who are registered as Democrats…

The educational split in North Carolina could be the largest in the country. The state is in many ways still culturally Southern, but it has been transformed by rapidly growing metropolitan areas like Raleigh and Charlotte. These areas are full of migrants from outside the state, especially from the Northeast. Mrs. Clinton fares better among these voters, even after accounting for their greater education, than among those born in the state.


And, more recently, there was a nice, thorough story in the Christian Science Monitor about the role of NC this cycle.  As for the following quote, I definitely had the preceding Cohn analysis in mind:

Other states are electoral battlegrounds, but none have North Carolina’s mix of traditional Southern-style conservatism alongside thriving Millennial-led multicultural progressivism. Agrarian yet tech savvy, deeply evangelical yet globally progressive, deep red splashed with bright blue – the contrasts that once were part of North Carolina’s unique draw have become fissures.

That makes it a state to watch not only on Election Day, but in the months and years after – a crucible for how the pitched sides of America’s political divide can coexist and evolve.

“North Carolina is a microcosm of the divisions in the US electorate, but on steroids: The gap between white voters with and without college degrees is huge, the white to nonwhite gap is huge, and the rural-urban gap is huge,” says Steven Greene, a political scientist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

And, plenty more good stuff in there, too.

As for me, I love that NC has become such an important and interesting state.  As I told the CSM reporter, I’ve got plenty of smarter, more insightful friends in NY, Texas, etc., who nobody really cares about.  Not fair, but, heck, either is the electoral college.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to North Carolina in the 2016 election

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    When I moved to North Carolina from Miami some years ago, I came because it seemed the population as a whole had embraced the value of education and of progress through innovation.
    This no matter the cultural background,
    The fact that there was great public support for education 1-12, the generous support of the state universities and the support for projects like Research Triangle Park clenched my decision to move here. These were unifying values.
    Currently there is a divide over education: public schools vs privatization, funding the schools vs cutting taxes,and increasing doubt on the value of progress and even of science and the results of each.
    It seems the path of progress is not smooth and straight.

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