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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.

Breakdown Of Amendment Vote Indicates GOP Base Hasn’t Solidified For Romney

In looking at the amendment vote across the state, we see some things that really shouldn’t surprise a lot of folks regarding the results, but then there are some aspects that, when you dig deeper, are surprising.

First, we heard a lot about the controversy within the black community regarding the vote on the amendment defining marriage, in particular the split between social conservatism and civil rights.

In the counties with a black population of over 50 percent, support for the amendment was an average of 68%. In these eight counties (Hertford, Edgecombe, Bertie, Northampton, Warren, Halifax, Vance, and Washington), voter turnout was at 36%, above the statewide average of 34%.

But what about the larger, urban areas? Did they vote like their rural counterparts?

In Mecklenburg County, 41 precincts are “majority-minority” precincts, with black voter population of 50% or more. These precincts voted, on average, 46% for the constitutional amendment, with majority-minority precincts in Mecklenburg voting 56% against the amendment.

Another difference between urban and rural black areas was voter turnout. Compared to the countywide turnout of 28% in Mecklenburg, majority-minority precincts had an average of 19% voter turnout.

More analysis will be needed, but the suspicion of a rural-urban divide seems to be more prevalent than the factor of race regarding the voting pattern on the constitutional amendment. I’ll be exploring more about that in later posts.

For now, what other factors may have influenced the vote for the constitutional amendment? With the aid of a statistical software program, I took the 100 county results for the amendment and ran several different factors that one would think would have some kind of effect on support for the amendment.

For example, the more a county voted for John McCain in 2008 (a sign of how Republican a county would be), would there be increased support for the constitutional amendment on marriage? Turns out, that was indeed the case: The more a county was a McCain supporter translated into more support for the constitutional amendment on marriage.

So if McCain support might indicate the level of support for the amendment, would the amount of support for Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential primary indicate amendment support as well?

Well, the more the county voted for Mitt Romney, the less likely it was to vote for the constitutional amendment. Granted (for the stats geeks out there), the predictive power is less than 5%, but this seems weird.

How about looking at the votes against Romney? Would a county that cast more votes for the other Republican candidates (remember, Gingrich, Santorum, Paul, and “no preference” were still listed on the GOP primary ballot) show an increased amount of votes for the amendment?

It appears that perhaps Republican support for the party’s presumptive nominee hasn’t quite solidified around Romney, as indicated by the fact that one-third of Republican voters voted for someone other than Romney.

In the 63 counties that cast more than 33% against Romney, the average level of support for the constitutional amendment was 72%, nearly 11 points higher than the statewide result of 61% support. And these counties, on average, voted 55% for John McCain in 2008 and has (again on average) 33% registered Republican voters. This indicates that, in some key counties, the base of the Republican Party isn’t sold on Romney.

So, would the percentage of registered Republicans in a county have any indication of the level of support for the constitutional amendment?

It would appear that as a county’s percentage of registered GOP voters increased, so to did support for the constitutional amendment. No real surprise there. But what about a county’s Democratic and unaffiliated registered voters?

One thing we saw in public opinion was as the primary date drew closer, the level of opposition by Democrats and unaffiliated voters seemed to swing against the amendment. Public Policy Polling saw a majority of Democrats (53%) express opposition to the amendment, while unaffiliated voters were nearly evenly split (47-46%). Republicans were overwhelmingly for the amendment (80%).

In counties where the percentage of registered Democrats increased, there seemed to be a slight decline in support for the amendment.

In areas that saw increased percentages of registered unaffiliated voters, the trend was also more pronounced in voting against the amendment.

One final analysis that I ran was the most surprising in the Democratic presidential primary. President Obama pulled only 79% of the support of Democrats and Democratic-unaffiliated voters in the state, with nearly 21% of the ballots cast expressing “no preference.” If one was to read that as a vote against Obama, what might have been the trend when voting for the constitutional amendment in comparison?

This is the most surprising of the county-level analysis that I’ve seen: as counties voted more “no preference” against their presidential nominee (the president), the support for the constitutional amendment rose.

What I take away from this is that there is still the conservative North Carolina Democrat present, especially in rural counties of the state.

I’ll be looking at more of the internal party races in the next few entries, but seeing how these results line up against the upcoming general election will make for some fascinating analysis.

2 Responses to “Breakdown of amendment vote indicates GOP base hasn’t solidified for Romney”

  1. Michael Bitzer says:
    May 18, 2012 at 1:14 pm
    Thanks Pebbles! I have written an entry based on the questions you raised in the previous two entries, so I hope you find them useful. Thanks for reading, and hope you continue to enjoy the posts.


  2. Pebbles says:
    May 17, 2012 at 9:52 am
    Very interesting. What is a Democratic-unafilliated voter, an Independent that takes a Democratic primary ballot? I am Democrat and noticed while canvassing in NC that there are a lot of registered Democrats that really are Republicans. I wonder if they just skip the primaries altogether? I’m serious, they let me know there’s no way they’d vote for Democratic for any office. When I’d ask why they don’t they change their registration, most told me it was tradition. I really love this blog!

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