Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Black Turnout in NC: Impacts it had and Impacts it didn't: Statewide Races

This is a section of PPP's report about the impacts that high black turnout had on the outcomes of key political races in North Carolina last year- and the impacts it didn't. You can read the full thing here.
We recalculated our final North Carolina poll for the statewide races assuming an 18% African American electorate, and adjusted for any error made on the initial poll (i.e. underestimating Bev Perdue’s margin of victory by two points.)


Actual Result

Estimated Result at 18%


Obama +1

McCain +3


Perdue +3

McCrory +1


Hagan +9

Hagan +5

Lieutenant Governor

Dalton +5

Dalton +2

Insurance Commissioner

Goodwin +7

Goodwin +3


Wood +8

Wood +4

Agriculture Commissioner

Troxler +4

Troxler +8

Labor Commissioner

Berry +2

Berry +6

There are a few ways to look at these numbers. Obviously there’s no way Barack Obama could have taken North Carolina if there had been normal black turnout but he still would have done considerably better than John Kerry or Al Gore did in the state. That speaks to two things: first, that changes in the voting patterns of white voters did play a key role in Obama’s North Carolina victory and second, that it was not just the quantity of the black vote that played an important role in his victory in the state but also that African Americans voted monolithically Democratic to a greater extent than they had in previous elections. The difference between a Democratic candidate winning the black vote 95-5 and 85-15 is worth at least 200,000 votes in North Carolina, enough to change the results of both the Presidential and Gubernatorial contests in the state.

Kay Hagan would still have won her contest for the Senate by a comfortable margin even at a low level of black turnout, something that should further confirm to Democratic hopefuls that they have a strong chance at taking out Richard Burr in 2010 even if it is a fundamentally different political climate.

Walter Dalton, Wayne Goodwin, and Beth Wood would all still more than likely have won even with low black turnout so ascribing their victories to the ‘Obama factor’ is not really accurate. Republicans Cherie Berry and Steve Troxler came close to losing and if they had been defeated it would have had a lot to do with the turnout Obama generated.

The Governor’s race would have been incredibly close under a different black turnout model, with Pat McCrory likely winning by about a point. It’s possible the race would be stuck in recount land right now if Hillary Clinton had ended up as the Democratic nominee. At the same time it’s worth noting that even if black turnout had simply ticked up to 20% rather than around 23% that still would more than likely have been good enough to give Perdue a narrow victory.

The overall conclusion? When it comes to the 2008 statewide races, the lack of record black turnout would definitely have flipped the Presidential contest and may have changed the contest for Governor. The impact it had on other statewide races has been exaggerated.

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