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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.

Millennials Show More Political Independence As They Enter Adulthood

Yes, it’s a year and a half away from the November 2016 general election, but already the punditry and analysis has begun in terms of what could happen in the looming presidential contest.

A team of political scientists at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics released its initial takes on the solid blue or red to the toss-up swing states, and there’s no real surprise. The lead that Democrats have in the solid or likely blue states gives them an edge in Electoral College votes over the GOP, with a total (by the team’s analysis) of 85 votes as “toss-ups.” These are many of the same states we have seen over three presidential campaign cycles.

And while some early NC polls indicate that the bases of both parties are pretty well locked into supporting their candidates, two groups may become more of an influence in next year’s, and future, elections.

In a recent appearance in Nevada, Hillary Clinton announced that she supports a full path to citizenship for people in the United States illegally, along with expanding President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

This was seen as a direct play for the attention and future support of Hispanic and Latino voters, who are playing an increasing role in several key swing states, such as Nevada.  And it is obvious that this group is going to be a coveted bloc of voters. Before Clinton’s announcement, an organization funded by the conservative Koch brothers announced an initiative to sway Hispanics and Latinos to a more conservative alignment.

While classified by the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato as a ‘lean-GOP’ state for next year, North Carolina could be one of the battleground states that Republicans will need to keep in their column to build toward 270 electoral votes.  And while we have a spat of early polls that indicate North Carolina could be competitive a year and half out, an interesting trend is apparent in the registration numbers of Hispanic/Latino North Carolinians.

In looking at voter registration numbers through May 2 of this year, registration by Hispanic/Latino voters breaks down heavily Democratic (44 percent) or unaffiliated (39 percent), with only 16 percent registering Republican.

The only good news for Republicans is that self-identified Hispanic/Latino registered voters make up two percent of the 6.5 million registered voters statewide.

But in looking at the other key group—Millennial voters—Democrats may not be able to claim such a lock as they have on NC Hispanic voters. Of those who are Millennials (those born after 1980) have registered at the same rate for both Democrats and unaffiliated (37 percent each), with a quarter having registered Republican.

The growing lack of party allegiance is becoming much more pronounced as the state’s electorate is experiencing a generational shift.

A year and half away from the November 2016 election, Baby Boomers make up a third of the registered voter pool, with Millennials at 28 percent, Generation Xers at 26 percent, and those born before 1945 (the Silent Generation) only 13 percent.

In comparison to Millennials, registered Baby Boomers are 44 percent Democratic, 33 percent Republican, and 22 percent unaffiliated, while those caught in between (Generation Xers) are 39 percent Democratic, 32 percent Republican, and 29 percent unaffiliated. 

In North Carolina, the electorate’s generational shift may be much more an influencer than the rise of Hispanic and Latino voters. But for either party’s presidential nominee, the dynamics that these two groups are having on North Carolina should not be discounted.