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Politics
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.

Breaking Down The Data: A Review Of Election Results

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Now that the mid-term 2014 election is behind us, some thoughts and reflections before we move on to 2016.

First, the results are what most would have expected. We’re still awaiting the final data from the state Board of Elections as to the partisan and racial composition of those who cast ballots, but the exit poll results give some hint of a mid-term electorate that wasn’t like a presidential year.

In 2012’s N.C. exit poll, self-identified Democrats were 38 percent of the respondents, while Republicans were 32 percent and independents were 29; this year’s state exit poll showed a near even balance between self-identified Democrats (36 percent) to Republicans (35 percent), a swing of six points to the Republicans.  Independents held steady at 29 percent this year.

Both self-identified Democrats and Republicans said they voted 90 percent-plus for their party’s senate candidates in this year’s mid-term election, while independents broke for Tillis 49-42. 

This is typical in a mid-term election for partisans to toe the party line, while independents tend to break against the president’s party. What is not typical, however, is that late deciders in North Carolina did not do what they tend to do: of the 13 percent of the electorate who decided within the final week of the campaign, half of them indicated they voted for Hagan, while 46 percent voted for Tillis. Usually late deciders tend to break against the president’s party.

Second, where and how the votes came in, especially for the U.S. Senate candidates, continues to show a pattern that the state has transitioned into since 2008.

North Carolina has followed the urban-rural divide that the nation has settled into.  In the Tillis-Hagan contest, the pattern continues what we have seen in presidential years.

Hagan won the urban counties by 17 points (57 to Tillis’ 40), while Tillis won rural counties by 14 points (57 to Hagan’s 43). The suburban counties have been the areas that make the state slightly lean to the right, and this year Tillis was able to capture those areas with a significant margin (56 to 40).

Interestingly, Sean Haugh, the Libertarian candidate who garnered a respectable 3.7 percent of the state wide vote, actually claimed 4 percent of the suburban vote, compared to 3 percent in the urban counties and next to nothing in the rural counties.

For each candidate, the distribution of their vote mirrors this urban-rural divide: 49 percent of Hagan’s vote came from urban counties, while a plurality of Tillis’ vote came from rural counties (43 percent). 

Finally, this year’s election was a classic mid-term election year.  While the polls indicated a series of what seemed to be tight races, the final verdicts showed what generally happens in mid-term elections, especially in the 6th year of a presidential administration.

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The presidential party, with the exception of 1934, 1998, and 2002, always suffers a loss of seats in both chambers of Congress.  In 1962, 1970, and 1982, the first mid-term election saw a very small pick-up for the president’s party, but the second mid-term election always sees losses for the party that controls the White House.

One other aspect to this year’s election: Of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, anywhere from 49 to 53 seats were considered to be ‘competitive’ in their electoral results. That means the winner received 55 percent or less of their vote.

Generally, political analysts and scientists would rank a competitive election as falling in the 45-55 percent range, but the vast majority of the districts are now solidly outside of this competitive range. 

What we will take away from this mid-term election is more of the same; what we may also take away from this year’s election is that we will get more of the same when it comes to governing: Division along intensely partisan lines.