Last year Democrats in North Carolina, especially at the federal level, did pretty well with independents. Our final polls showed Barack Obama and Kay Hagan both winning by four points with them, a result not that important to Hagan's victory but critical to Obama's.
They could make the difference in whether Richard Burr gets reelected or not next year, as well as in Republican hopes to retake the legislature, and right now they appear to be leaning in the GOP's direction.
When we asked a generic ballot question on a survey a couple weeks ago 38% of independents said they planned to generally vote Republican next year, compared to only 26% intending to go for Democrats.
When we tested Burr specifically against a generic Democrat last week he led 39-32 with independents, even though he trailed 41-38 overall.
Burr has also led among independent voters against every hypothetical Democrat we've tested him against, including Roy Cooper, against whom he had a 37-29 lead with indy voters.
The divided government message- that the country will be better off if it doesn't give Democrats too much power and retains some level of balance- is going to be critical to GOP success next year and may have a higher level of appeal with independents.
This is some initial good news for Republicans, but there is also a caveat. Many polls have shown GOP identification at an all time low, and it may be that a spike in independent ranks in North Carolina reflects conservative voters disenchanted with the party choosing to leave. They're still conservative though even if they don't want to wear the GOP label and much more likely to support Republican candidates even if they do it under a different name.