Monday, November 17, 2008

The Issues Changed: North Carolina

PPP's newest report looks at how the issues changed over the course of 2008 in the key swing states of Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio and how that contributed to Barack Obama's landslide victory. This is the section on North Carolina. You can read the full report here.

If you want some perspective on just how remarkable Barack Obama’s victory in North Carolina was, consider this: in mid-January PPP surveyed 12 potential match ups for President between Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Obama on the Democratic side and Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, and Mitt Romney on the Republican side. The most lopsided result in the entire dozen was the one between McCain and Obama. McCain led 52-38 at that time.

Early in 2008 39% of North Carolinians said the economy was their top issue, 22% said the War in Iraq was, and 9% said it was immigration.

By the end of the election it was 59% for the economy, 11% for the war, and 2% for immigration.

The decreased voter concern over immigration hurt John McCain in North Carolina just as it did in Florida:


% listing immigration as top issue

McCain lead with those voters

Overall McCain lead based on immigration voters









Immigration voters weren’t quite as vital to McCain’s support in North Carolina as they were in Florida, but they still accounted for nearly half of his lead in the state in January and by the time the general election rolled around those folks had almost all shifted to their greatest concern being the economy.

McCain’s early position in North Carolina was so strong that contrary to most other states, he even had the lead among voters who listed the economy as their top issue in January. By the fall that was a completely different story:


% listing economy as top issue

Race with those voters

Overall lead based on economy voters



48-42 McCain

2.3% McCain



62-36 Obama

15.3% Obama

North Carolina saw an almost 18 point shift in Obama’s direction over the course of 2008 among voters holding the economy as their top issue. What’s important to note here, in contrast to Florida, is that not only did voter concern over it increase, but Obama’s support within that group saw a major increase as well. That’s a testament to voters in the state getting to know him a lot more as he heavily contested the state, visited frequently, and invested in television ads and grassroots infrastructure. The changing national financial climate made it possible for Obama to win North Carolina, but campaigns do matter and if his operation hadn’t been as strong as it was he would not have been able to take advantage of the opportunity that was created.

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