The Investigation of electoral Geographies can be enhanced greatly by looking at trends on a smaller scale. Here, I will use North Carolina as a context from which to study electoral geographies.
To understand the electoral geographies of North Carolina, it is necessary to have demographic information about the state. As of 2013, the US Census Bureau estimated that North Carolina has a population of 9,848,060. I have compiled data pertinent to my analysis from the US Census Bureau in the table below.
|Demographic Characteristic||Percentage of NC Population|
|Citizens under 18 years of age||23.2|
|Citizens over 65 years of age||14.3|
|Education- high school diploma or more||84.5|
|Education- Bachelors degree or higher||26.8|
|White alone- Not Hispanic or Latino||64.4|
|Black or African American Alone||22|
|Two or more races||2|
|Hispanic or Latino||8.9|
Fig 1. North Carolina Demographic Information (U.S. Census Bureau).
Geographical trends in voter preference
North Carolina is a historically Republican state, however the axis of “modern and traditional“ (Morrill, 2011, 167) distinguishes the voting preferences of geographical areas. Rural areas are considered more “traditional” and frequently vote more conservative (Morrill, 2011, 155). This means that areas in North Carolina like the northern mountain territories and exurban communities like Randolph county favor republicans as well favor republicans (“Where the parties”). The republican nature of rural and exurban communities in North Carolina can be attributed to low percentages of minorities in these counties and “culturally conservative” trends (Morrill, 2011, 167). Conversely in urban areas and areas home to young voters and technology industries, voters normally side with democrats (Morrill, 2011, 158). While these trends normally stay true, there are frequently “anomalous” counties where metropolitan areas will vote republicans and rural areas will vote democratic.
North Carolina also boasts a few swing districts. The outer banks are have a history of favoring the republican party, but an increase in the black population is contributing to more democratic votes (“SD-O1: Swing”). The influx of minorities into rural areas has the effect of turning districts blue because rural and exurban districts usually have a small population to begin with (Morrill, 2011, 159). Further, the outer banks historically value public education, yet a lack of higher education can pose a problem for democrats (“Where the Parties”). The more educated a voter is, the more likely that they will vote democratic (Morrill, 2011, 163). New Hanover County is also a prominent swing district. The mixture of urban areas with manufacturing industry represents democratic and republican interests. (New Hanover County).
In 2008, a democratic presidential candidate won North Carolina for the first time in 38 years (Cohen, 2014). Micah Cohen of the New York Times claims that this win is earlier than expected for the state. However, he claims that recent trends have caused this sudden turn around in NC. North Carolina’s economy is diversifying and shifting from a blue-collar work environment to more skilled employment. Older economic cornerstones of NC like tobacco, textiles and furniture are phasing out in favor of banking and newer technologies (Cohen, 2014). This new type of economy typically brings electoral trends that favor democrats (Morrill, 2011, 167). The diversification of NC economy is shifting the population composition thus shifting the electoral geography of the state.
The shift from manual labor industries to technology has attracted voters who are young and educated and thus more likely to vote democratic (Morrill, 2011, 163). The power of the youth vote in NC is also demonstrated in the 2014 senatorial race. Young voters gave democratic Kay Hagan 53% of their votes, yet she still lost (Circle, 2014). Compared to the 71% of the youth vote that Hagan received in 2008, the 17-point loss is a definite factor in elections (Circle, 2014).
The economic diversification of NC has also caused urbanization, and with urbanization, comes an influx of minority populations. The populations of African-American and Hispanic communities are increasing, with North Carolina having the 11th largest Hispanic population in the United States (Cohen, 2014). Both of these groups are likely to vote democratic (Morrill, 2011, 168). Additionally, social movements have profound impacts on voter choices.While the Moral Monday Movement in North Carolina was thought to bring democratic leadership to the state (Schradie, 2014), these types of movements cause republican backlash (Morrill, 2011, 162).