The Party Line
Thu May 17, 2012
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.
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