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Charlotte came last among major cities in a 2014 report measuring economic mobility. That served as a rallying cry for Charlotte leaders to try to figure out how to improve opportunities for the city’s poorest residents. We look at where Charlotte is eight years later.

Who's voting in Mecklenburg? Data shows disparity on race, gender

Vote here sign in front of Bank of America Stadium
David Boraks
/
WFAE
Voters in Charlotte were more likely to be white and female than the county as a whole, data show.

This story first appeared as part of WFAE's EQUALibrium newsletter, exploring race and equity in the Charlotte region. Get the latest news and analysis in your inbox first by signing up here.

Turnout was low in Mecklenburg County’s municipal elections earlier this month — about 15.5%, or right around average for our off-year elections.

Preliminary statistics show the people who voted were more likely to be white, female and not Hispanic than the county as a whole.

That’s according to data provided by Mecklenburg County’s election director, Michael Dickerson. Full statistics, including age, will be released in the coming weeks, as the state Board of Elections compiles data from all 100 counties.

Of the 120,660 valid ballots cast in the 2023 municipal elections in Mecklenburg County, 27.8% were cast by Black voters, 64.5% by white voters, and just 1.4% by Asian voters (the rest were American Indians, multiracial, or “undescribed”).

Compare that to the county’s demographics as a whole: 33.2% Black, 56.4% white, and 6.7% Asian.

When it comes to sex, 54.7% of those who voted were women. Countywide, women make up 51.6% of the population.

The Board of Elections doesn’t break down the number of Latino people as a racial category, instead categorizing people as Hispanic or Not Hispanic. (So, for example, you could be a Black, white or multiracial Hispanic person.)

Just 2% of voters who cast a ballot identified as Hispanic, the data show, compared with 14.4% of the county’s population. There’s an important caveat, though: 16.2% of voters were “undescribed” as either Hispanic or not, meaning some of those might be Hispanic voters who didn’t check the box (and as a multiracial, partly Hispanic person myself, I can tell you that those boxes get confusing).

Of course, no election is going to be a perfect reflection of the county’s demographics when it comes to race and sex. That would be statistically just about impossible. But it does show persistent trends in what the people who show up to elect our local leaders look like — and what they don’t.

What’s most important to you? Depends who you are

When it comes to issues facing Mecklenburg County, people’s top concerns are housing affordability, overdevelopment and infrastructure, and crime.

That’s from a county-funded survey of 1,116 county residents released earlier this month that asked people about their perceptions of local government, important issues, and what they’d like to see change. It offers a window not just into what people perceive as some of the biggest challenges in our county, but also how opinions differ among different groups. And it also shows some worries that most of us have in common.

You can explore the findings yourself here, either in a downloadable PDF of some of the key points, or on an interactive dashboard. Due to a lack of high-quality, publicly available local issues polling, the annual report is a valuable tool — and many of the questions have been asked for more than a decade, so you can track changes in attitudes.

Here are three findings:

Everyone’s less satisfied — but Black and low-income people are the least satisfied

One interesting finding is that across the board, fewer residents rate Mecklenburg County a “good” or “excellent” place to live. In 2018, 76.8% of survey respondents did.

This year, that fell to 69.5%. The share of people who rated Mecklenburg “good” or “excellent” was slightly lower among Black residents (67.6%) and slightly higher among white residents (72.1%).

But the far bigger gap was between income levels. Just 53.9% of people making less than $15,000 and 61.8% of people making $15,000 to $24,999 gave the county good marks, compared to 78.5% of people making at least $100,000. It appears that income is a bigger determinant here than race (though, of course, the two often correlate).

Black people report more inequality in services

Only 58.5% of Black county residents said they agree that Mecklenburg’s services and programs are racially equitable. That’s well below the 71.2% of white residents who agreed with that statement, as well as the 66.4% of Hispanics who did so.

Again, there’s an even bigger dividing line between low- and high-income individuals, with low-income respondents much less likely to say services and programs are racially equitable.

Everybody likes parks

One of the county’s main services is providing parks and recreation facilities. And it seems like most everyone is pretty happy with them. In almost every category — parks, recreation centers, greenways, spraygrounds — more than 90% of people in every category said they’re satisfied with the available facilities. (One exception is high-income people and athletic fields — only 88.7% say they’re satisfied.)

We often focus on controversies, division and inequities. Maybe there’s a simple lesson here: We could all benefit from a nice walk in the park.

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Ely Portillo has worked as a journalist in Charlotte for over a decade. Before joining WFAE, he worked at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and the Charlotte Observer.