Can Obama Win N.C.?

The simplest, most straightforward analysis possible

It’s the question every political pundit or newspaper columnist has written or commented on. Everyone has a theory – “If Obama can register this many people or if unaffiliated voters break this way” – on how to construct the numbers to show Obama can be competitive in North Carolina. Here at Civitas, we have broken this race down to the simplest terms to identify the one number to watch to see if Obama has a chance to win North Carolina in November.

First, let’s look back at turnout statistics from 2004 for a baseline:

  Turnout of Group Percent of Turnout Percent of Registration
Total 64% 100% 100%
By Party      
Democratic 65% 47% 47%
Republican 69% 37% 35%
Unaffiliated 54% 16% 19%
Libertarian 56% 0% 0%
By Race      
White 66% 79% 76%
Black 59% 19% 20%
Other 54% 3% 3%
By Gender      
Male 63% 44% 45%
Female 65% 56% 55%
By Age      
18 – 25 52% 9% 11%
26 – 40 55% 25% 29%
41 – 65 72% 48% 43%
Over 65 72% 18% 16%

Date source: State Board of Elections

Please note that, while many pundits have based their calculations on exit polls released after the 2004 election stating that black voters comprised 25 percent of the vote, the State Board of Elections officially calculated that black voters made up 18.6 percent of voters in the 2004 general election.

Many other predictions use complex formulas based on multiple assumptions of how many new people register to vote or how many young people vote or if the black vote goes to a certain percent of the overall total.

Instead, we make one basic assumption up front: regardless of what the overall turnout is for the 2008 general election, black turnout will equal overall turnout.

Thus, black voters will comprise approximately 21 percent of the electorate – the same share as their percentage of registered voters. This assumption may be optimistic, since black turnout has not once been as high as white turnout in recent political history – not in any general election, including either of the famed Gantt/Helms matchups.

According to our polling Obama will win virtually all black voters, so the only statistic to watch in order to assess Barack Obama’s chances of winning North Carolina is the share of the white vote he receives, regardless of party.

So based on our polling and our assumption about turnout, Obama receives:

96% of black vote (21% of electorate) = 20% of overall vote
40% of “other races” vote (5% of electorate) = 2% of overall vote

This accounts for 26 percent of the electorate. The remaining 74 percent of the electorate is white voters, and we can now calculate how many of their votes Obama needs to win to in order to carry North Carolina.

Let’s assume he can carry North Carolina by winning only 49 percent of the overall vote. (That “win scenario” would be Obama 49%, McCain 48%, Barr/others 3%). Given the 22 percent we have already put in Obama’s column, he needs to gain another 27 percent of the overall vote from white voters. Thus Obama needs to receive in excess of 36 percent of the white vote in order to win.

If we look at recent polling, we find Obama current falls short of the mid 30s among white voters in NC:

Civitas (Sep 6-10) – 30%
Research 2000 (Sep 8-10) – 21%
PPP (Sep 9) – 32%
Survey USA (Sep 8-10) – 26%
Civitas (Aug 14-18) – 29%

Most polling shows Obama’s support among white voters in the mid to high 20s or low 30s. Until Obama can reach the mid 30s in the polls with white voters, his chances of winning North Carolina remain slim.

For more information regarding polling:
Chris Hayes
Senior Legislative & Polling Analyst
Civitas Institute

Feel free to make comments below.

This article was posted in Elections & Voting by Chris Hayes on September 11, 2008 at 5:14 PM.

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Comments on this article

  • 1

    Jerry Alexander
    Jerry Alexander Apr 29, 2012 at 4:16

    Of course Obama will win NC….they both love Illegal Aliens.

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