Friday, August 28, 2009

Young voters in North Carolina

Last year young voters were a big key to Democratic success in North Carolina. Exit polls showed 74% of them voting for Barack Obama, and his coattails helped Bev Perdue and Kay Hagan each win 71% of their support as well.

Voters under 30 in the state have always tended to be more progressive, but last year was something completely new. In 2004 John Kerry won 56% of their votes and Erskine Bowles got 57%.

A big question then becomes whether last year's results are a permanent predictor of how young people in North Carolina are going to vote, or whether it was a one time blip due to Obama's presence on the ballot that's not transferable to other elections.

Our polling data from the last three months would indicate that it's the latter case: younger voters are pretty Democratic, but not nearly to the extent the 2008 election results indicated.

51% of voters under 30 identify as Democrats to 29% as Republicans and 21% as independents.

Looking specifically at the 2010 Senate race, 44% of them say they'll support a generic Democratic candidate to 29% supporting Richard Burr. Allocate the undecideds and you have the Democrat leading 60-40, an indication that the 2004 results in the state among young people are probably more reflective of the permanent reality than what happened last fall.

A lot of attention has been paid to the impact that decreased black turnout might have on North Carolina's races next year but young people could be just as important to watch not just in terms of the quantity that turn out but also whether they're really as monolithically Democratic as last year's numbers indicated.

His potential ability to generate turnout and support from young people is one of Cal Cunningham's strongest selling points as a possible Senate candidate.


Jason, Asheville said...

Tom, you are absolutely right in pointing out the intentions of young voters in 2010. I'm a Gen Xer and I work with a lot of 20 somethings. They sure were, and for the most part are still, fired up for Obama. That being said, there is no talk at all about 2010 and, although I'm no pollster, it would be safe to assume that only a fraction of Gen Y registered NC voters know who Richard Burr is much less care about the election next year, Cal Cunningham or no Cal Cunningham. Like the black vote, I don't expect to see much from Gen Y.

Mark Chilton said...

True, Jason, but you should never expect a constituency to show up without campaigning on the things they care about. Obama was talkin's Gen X's and Y's language. If Cunningham can do the same, then that may help him. But frankly the fact that he is 36 doesn't mean squat - unless it translates into issues and strategies that appeal to younger voters.

Also, isn't the real issue the primary election? Younger voters tend not to show up in May (my perception only), so that could hurt Cal, even assuming that the under-40 set is with him.

Anonymous said...

I am in the Triad of NC, and am a 26 year old male. I will do whatever possible to get Burr out of office. I know a lot of people in my circle of friends, feel the same as well, and yes, we were Huge Obama supporter's. As long as Cal or whoever it may be, has Obama down here campaigning with him/her, that may be good enough to bring out the under 30's crowd, and the AA vote. That may be enought to sqeak out a Dem victory.

Jason, Asheville said...

I conducted my own poll this morning, where I work, with 10 NC "Gen Yers", all of whom had voted for Obama last year. I asked them two questions: 1) Who is Richard Burr? and 2) Who is Cal Cunningham?
For the first question, of the 10, one knew that Richard Burr is our Senator and two others said they "heard the name". For the second question, only one had heard of Cal Cunningham...the same one who knew that Richard Burr was our Senator. I don't claim to be a pollster and I know this isn't scientific, just interesting.

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