Thursday, November 19, 2009

Looking at NC Republicans

There is a movement among some North Carolina Republicans to close the party's primaries to independents because they think allowing them to vote results in excessively moderate candidates being nominated. But is that claim really true?

Independents are often thought of as being straight down the middle voters who split their tickets and shift from party to party on an election by election basis. Even within the ranks of independents there are few voters who actually fit that stereotype- most lean strongly toward one party or the other but just don't feel like identifying themselves with one.

In North Carolina our independents are a conservative leaning bunch. 49% are moderates but among the rest of the crew 41% are conservatives and just 10% are liberals.

Let's take a closer look at the independent voters most likely to vote in Republican primaries though- those who disapprove of Barack Obama's job performance. Within that group 65% are conservatives and 34% are moderates.

The ideological identification of Republican voters in the state breaks down 71% conservatives and 27% moderates. Throw those Obama disapproving independents into that mix and you end up with a likely Republican primary electorate that's 69% conservatives and 29% moderates.

When you actually look at the numbers the premise that allowing unaffiliateds to vote in Republican primaries gives moderates undue power is false. The independents who participate in GOP primaries are almost as conservative as registered Republican voters.

It would seem this movement is being driven by emotions rather than facts. Beyond that I don't think the party's problem in recent elections has been the excess moderation of its candidates- quite the opposite actually- but allowing or not allowing unaffiliateds to vote in their primaries has no impact on that.


Josh Putnam said...

Idaho Republicans are in court now over a similar issue. Of course, their system is completely open; allowing independents and Democrats to participate. The proponents of the open primary system have asked a simple question: Where's the proof that more moderate candidates have emerged from the open primaries of the last 36 years (the period in which the Idaho open primary has been in place)?

If you are following the median voter theorem, then it is only logical to have a more moderate candidate for the general election is more "rational." But if those concerns take a back seat to ideological purism, then allowing independents to participate in the primary process is potentially problematic.

Still, the burden of proof is on the NCGOP to demonstrate that they have suffered some injury due to the current electoral law regarding nominations. Have they?

Jon A Firebaugh said...

I don't believe that there is a burden of proof in North Carolina. The requirements to vote in the primary is the responsibility of the party, as I understand it. If the party chooses to close the primary to all but registered Republicans, that is their prerogative.

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