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The Party Line is dedicated to examining regional issues and policies through the figures who give shape to them. These are critical, complex, and even downright confusing times we live in. There’s a lot to navigate nationally and in the Carolinas; whether it’s elections, debates on gay marriage, public school closings, or tax incentives for economic development. The Party Line’s goal is to offer a provocative, intelligent look at the issues and players behind the action; a view that ultimately offers the necessary insight for Carolina voters to hold public servants more accountable.

Dissecting The Amendment One Vote

The dust has partially settled on the May 8th primary, and here are some early thoughts on the results:


While the statewide average voter turnout was 34.3 percent, over half of the counties have turnout above that average (56). But, in looking at those 56 counties, only four of the top 10 counties with the largest voter registration were above the state-wide voter turnout average: Wake (Raleigh), Buncombe (Asheville), Durham (Durham), and Guilford (Greensboro).

The top county — with 50 percent registered voter turnout — was Mitchell County. Camden County was the bottom county, with 19.6 percent voter turnout. Mecklenburg, the county with the most registered voters, was 91 out of the 100 counties in terms of voter turnout.

https://thepartyline.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/NCmap.jpgCounties that voted in favor the amendment (Green) vs. Counties voting against the amendment (blue) in the May 8th North Carolina primary election

The Constitutional Amendment

With no real surprise that the amendment passed, a couple of things did catch my eye about the vote. First, most of the polls had the amendment passing, but with an average in the high 50s. Most observers were surprised by the 61 percent approval of the amendment, with a significant support coming from rural counties.

In looking at the top 10 counties that gave the amendment the greatest percentage of support (the average of these 10 counties was 84 percent for the amendment), voter turnout averaged 40.8 percent. But these counties only delivered 98,250 votes out of the 1.3 million votes for the amendment (or 7.5 percent of the total votes for the amendment).

The top 10 counties that either voted against the amendment (8) or tied 50-50 (2) had voter turnout of 36 percent. Unlike the top 10 voting for the amendment, these 10 counties provided 55 percent of all the votes cast against the amendment from across the state.

I’ll be looking at more breakdowns of voting with the amendment in the future, but one other observation is that six of the eight counties that voted against the amendment have institutions of higher education in them. Perhaps a sign of the generation gap on the issue of marriage between the young and old?

President Obama

While he didn’t face a contested primary, President Obama only received 79.2 percent of all the votes cast in the Democratic contest, with “no preference” receiving 20.8 percent of the vote.

What this may mean is if Obama wants to repeat his 2008 general campaign, it appears that he may have some selling to do with that 20 percent of Democrats who didn’t support him. What we know from exit polls is that Democrats say they vote Democratic in general elections 90 percent of the time, both national and here in the state.

It looks like the base of the Democratic Party hasn’t truly solidified around the president yet, and he may have some work to do to bring these party supporters home. But he appears not to have as big of a job as his presumptive Republican rival.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney is the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party. But on Tuesday, Romney received only two-thirds of all the votes cast in the Republican primary contest. Candidates who had dropped out — Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich — but whose names were still on the ballot, along with Paul and “no preference,” managed to get 33 percent of the vote.

While he only made one campaign swing through the state before the primary election day, if Romney intends to win the White House this November, he has got to have North Carolina in his column. Using the primary as a chance to introduce himself to North Carolina voters was a missed opportunity — and with his visit to Charlotte three days after his victory at the polls, Romney may have some more “selling” to do to the base of his party.

I’ll be looking more in-depth at these contests and more races, like the 8th and 9th GOP congressional races, in future entries, but the main take-away from North Carolina’s primary continues a theme that I’ve been repeating to myself — the only prediction to make this year is that it will be unpredictable (witness Obama’s declaration of his personal support for gay marriage after the N.C. vote against gay marriage for just one example, but more on that later as well).

Categories: Uncategorized
Breakdown of amendment vote indicates GOP base hasn’t solidified for Romney

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5 Responses to “Dissecting The Amendment One Vote”

  1. Hope Lambeth says:
    May 15, 2012 at 12:43 pm
    What an amazing reelection tactic on Obama’s behalf to announce his support for gay marriage, and at such convenient timing. I am sure his outward statement will win over the “against” voters in the November election.


  2. Pebbles says:
    May 15, 2012 at 11:38 am
    Interesting. I look forward to more details about the breakdown. Of course, there is a generational split on marriage equality, but a lot of older people are getting on board. I’d be interested to know if the counties that voted against the amendment have more registered Democrats, Republicans, or Independents. I live in the 9th district, and am seriously considering changing my registration from Democratic to Independent so I can vote in the Republican primary since a Democrat has no chance in hell to win.


    • Michael Bitzer says:
      May 15, 2012 at 5:30 pm
      Thanks Pebbles. I’ll be glad to include those into another entry. I just sent another column today with some more details and interesting findings on the amendment vote, but can include the party registration breakdowns for counties that voted for the amendment as well in a future one.

      Thanks for reading!


  3. Michael Bitzer says:
    May 12, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    I would welcome any “specifics” as to “misleading” statements that are in this entry. I’m planning to write several more posts on this primary election, and would welcome any “specific” aspects as to what you would be interested in knowing about, as far as the data will allow me to demonstrate. Yes, you are correct, there is “much we don’t know” about this month’s primary election, but simply claiming “misleading” statements without any specific references to what those “misleading” statements are doesn’t help to further the conversation. If you care to have the specific data to support why I wrote what I did, I will be happy to post that data.

    You discussed the impact of unaffiliated voters. That will be something I plan to look into with the amendment and both party votes in the future.

    The idea that a Democrat would intentionally register as a Republican, or visa versa, is too far of a stretch for me. The studies done on “strategic spoilers” is pretty convincing–popular belief is that opposition party members will raid the other camp, but in this year’s SC primary (for example, which is an open primary with no party registration other than asking for the party ballot when you come to vote), only 4% of the voters answering the exit poll self-identified as Democratic in an open primary, with no party registration. Fairly small to make any significant difference in the results, but conventional wisdom holds on to beliefs typically not supported by the facts.

    Beyond that, if the claim is that a Democrat will secretly hide the fact that he/she is a Democrat and intentionally register as a Republican…well, there’s too much conspiracy theory on that to really address. Today’s polarized political environment and firm beliefs on from supporters with both parties would make me think that supporters are more committed to their party than to be that devious.

    I’d welcome any other specific questions that you might like see addressed, if the data allows it.


  4. Tim Phillips says:
    May 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm
    It’s a bit misleading to make some of these statements. There’s much we don’t know. Unaffiliated registered voters in NC number a little over 1.5million. This would mean they could ballot for either party. We also have no way of knowing how many people are intentionally registered for their opposition party to be a spoiler (agreed, probably a small statistic).
    What is apparent, more people voted on the Amendment One than in the presidential primaries.

Dr. Michael Bitzer is an associate professor of politics and history at Catawba College, where he also serves as the 2011-2012 Swink Professor for Excellence in Classroom Teaching and the chair of the department of history & politics. A native South Carolinian, he holds graduate degrees in both history and political science from Clemson University and The University of Georgiaââ