On our most recent North Carolina poll we asked respondents not just who they were supporting for President this year, but also who they supported for President four years ago, regardless of whether they actually voted in the election. Interestingly it came out with George W. Bush ahead 51-46, a margin tighter than his actual 56-44 win in 2004.
There are two reasons for that. First, the electorate here is not the same as it was four years ago. People moving here from out of state, as well as black and young voters who didn't vote in 2004 but intend to this year, are all more likely to have been Kerry supporters than not. Second, there is a small segment of poll respondents who are not taking responsibility for having been Bush voters.
Either way 7% of North Carolina voters supported George W. Bush in 2004 but are going for Barack Obama this year. Add in all the new voters and you have the equation for Obama's current small lead in the state.
What's driving these party shifters? There's not much doubt it's the economy. 81% of Obama supporters who also supported Bush cite it as their top issue.
The candidates' level of supports from within their own parties are relatively similar to what they were in 2004, but there's been major movement toward Obama among independents. Bush won voters we surveyed in that category 49-44 in 2004 but Obama now has a 52-37 lead with that same group of poll respondents. In other words there's been a 20 point shift there.
Some folks have written off Obama's chances both in North Carolina and elsewhere by saying that the youth vote won't really turn out for him. What's interesting to note though is that there has been a major shift in how voters under 30 are leaning for President. The ones we polled in this most recent survey went for John Kerry 54-44. But they're supporting Barack Obama 63-33. So regardless of how much the quantity of the youth vote increases from the previous Presidential election, Obama is still picking up a good amount of ground there.
In terms of community type, the biggest shifts in Obama's direction are coming from suburban voters and those in small town North Carolina. Folks describing themselves as suburbanites went for Kerry 52-45 but now support Obama by a much wider 57-39 margin. Obama's also turned a 52-44 deficit with small town voters into a narrow 49-46 advantage.
Obama's made small gains with rural voters, cutting a 30 point Democratic deficit to a 25 point one. Urban voters remain the most static- 59-38 for Obama after being 59-39 for Kerry. The big difference here will be whether urban voters turn out at a high rate such that the share of the vote they comprise increases.