North Carolina swung back to the Republicans in the 2012 presidential election — but the state’s electoral future is far from certain.
Unaffiliated voters outnumber registered Democrats or Republicans in 42 of 100 N.C. counties, according to a recent report of 2012 election results by Democracy North Carolina, a left-leaning voter advocacy organization in Durham.
counties with more unaffiliated registered voters than either party
counties with highest turnout evenly split by Obama and Romney
percent turnout rate for African-American women and white Republicans
percent statewide turnout rate for all demographics
Unaffiliated voters in the state have been growing, signifying diminishing party allegiance, said Bob Hall, director of Democracy North Carolina.
“We’re not so much a state that’s split between Republicans and Democrats as one that’s really up for grabs because voters are not feeling strongly affiliated with either party,” Hall said.
Rick Henderson, managing editor of the right-leaning John Locke Foundation’s Carolina Journal, said the growing number of unaffilliated voters helps make North Carolina a contentious swing state.
“What we see in voter registration numbers is the percentage of unaffiliated is going up — not as dramatic as some Western states — but we’re getting to a point where we may have as much as 25 percent unaffiliated,” he said.
While the number of unaffiliated voters is growing, the state is also becoming increasingly polarized.
Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama evenly split the 10 N.C. counties with the highest turnout, according to the report.
“It’s a very divided time right now — politics are very divided, and there are a lot of strong feelings and anger,” said Rob Schofield, director of research and policy development at the left-leaning N.C. Policy Watch. “I think that is reflected somewhat in who’s voting and how they’re voting.”
The report identified African-American women and white Republicans as the demographics with the largest 2012 turnout.
Hall said some experts suggest that the increasing number of African-American and young voters in North Carolina might cause the state to swing Democratic in future elections.
But he does not think this will be the case.
“I don’t think the demographic destiny will determine political destiny,” Hall said. “I think there’s still a lot of fluidity and a lot of people whose political ideology is not really strong.”
Henderson said North Carolina’s future lies in the two parties’ ability to appeal to voters.
“The political party that can move beyond or articulate its ideas and principles in a way that can appeal to the swing voter … is going to have a much easier time at elections,” he said.
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