Local Politics

Poll: Geography, gender, race split presidential vote

Posted October 27, 2008
Updated October 28, 2008

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— Geography is playing as much a role in the presidential election in North Carolina as the more usual dividing lines of race and gender, according to a WRAL News poll released Monday.

Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. surveyed 800 likely voters statewide between last Wednesday and Friday and found Republican candidate John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama to be in a dead heat, 47 percent of voters favoring each. Libertarian candidate Bob Barr has 1 percent of the vote, and 5 percent of North Carolina voters remain undecided.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

"If this race remains even on Election Day, Obama will carry the state," says John Davis, who's tracked political races for more than two decades as an independent consultant and former president of non-partisan political research business association NCFREE. "He has a sophisticated, fine-tuned (voter) turnout machine, the likes of which hasn't been seen in years."

North Carolina hasn't backed a Democrat for president since Jimmy Carter in 1976, but a tight race eight days out from the election could signal a wave of change, Republican strategist Carter Wrenn said.

"The tide is 10 feet up, so we Republicans are standing on the last two feet praying the water stops rising," Wrenn said.

A boundary line between McCain and Obama can be drawn down the middle of the state, according to the poll. Obama is favored by voters in the eastern half of the state – Triangle voters give him a 59 to 36 percent margin – while McCain gets the nod in the western half, including the Charlotte and Triad metro areas.

"Eastern North Carolina has counties with large African-American populations, which is where Obama is getting his support," Davis said. "On the other hand, the western counties have more older and more conservative voters, so they're trending toward McCain."

The race and age factors in that geographic split reflect two other dividing lines in the presidential race, the poll shows.

While McCain holds a 58 to 36 percent lead among white North Carolina voters, Obama holds an overwhelming 92 to 3 percent lead among blacks.

"There's no way to analyze this election than, I think, through the lens of race," said Gary Pearce, a Democratic strategist.

Pearce said he believes Obama needs even better percentages to win the state.

"He would have to win a disproportionate amount of undecided white votes," he said.

Likewise, Obama holds a double-digit lead among voters 34 and younger, while McCain enjoys a similar advantage among voters 65 and older. McCain holds a slight edge among those ages 50 to 64, while voters ages 35 to 49 are evenly split between the two candidates.

The gender gap that has marked voting nationwide in recent elections is very pronounced among North Carolina voters in the presidential race. McCain holds a 14-point margin among men, while Obama has a 12-point edge among women, according to the poll.

"Twenty-six points is a huge gender gap," Davis said. "It shows a strong feeling among women that Obama is better able to deal with the issue of the day – jobs and the economy."

More than three-fifths of those surveyed cited the economy as the most pressing issue for the nation, followed by national security at 12 percent and taxes at 7 percent.

Obama holds a slight edge among voters as being more able to handle the economy, while McCain is clearly the preferred candidate on the issues of national security and the war in Iraq – he holds double-digit leads among voters as being the more capable candidate.

Independent voters could hold the key, Davis said, noting the poll shows Obama leads McCain by 53 to 43 percent among unaffiliated voters.

"People are really thinking about the issues and the candidates in this election," Davis said.


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  • TUAlpha93 Oct 28, 2008

    "tualpha93 actually NC is a key to winning the election" - No it's not. Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Colorado are the key states. Obama can lose NC and if he wins Pennsylvania and holds serve on the other traditionally blue states, he's POTUS.

  • Cajunwon Oct 28, 2008

    "People are really thinking about the issues and the candidates in this election," Davis said.
    Well, the only issue is race. All the attack ads we see (from any candidate) are either false, greatly exaggerated, or misleading by taking out of context. I know no one voting based on an abortion or economic platform. Their war platforms are hard to differentiate. Palin may be a convenient scapegoat, but we've elected presidents with less experience. Then there are those who say (honestly) they will vote Black regardless of the issues. AFAIK, Obama is of mixed race -as was Lincoln (mother was of mixed race. Lincoln was elected to President 6 months after his famous Slavery speech (http://www.historyplace.com/lincoln/haven.htm). And propelled this country into Civil War just 4 months after the election (yes, he sure brought 'Change'). I'm in the middle group: Hard to vote a Republican & equally hard to vote for Obama.

  • redapace Oct 28, 2008

    "I know tons of local democrats that are voting for Mccain."

    That's odd because most of my republican friends are voting for Obama or Bob Barr this year. They say it comes down to Mccain's selection of Palin.

  • destewart2 Oct 28, 2008

    tualpha93 actually NC is a key to winning the election

  • TUAlpha93 Oct 28, 2008

    "I know tons of local democrats that are voting for Mccain." - Yes and I know Republicans that have to "tow the party line" to fit in with their Republican counterparts but have said that they will vote for Obama. I guess none of us will know until Nov 4th or maybe even Nov 5th. Obama doesn't need NC to win the race. NC is a nice victory for us locals but isn't necessary to put Obama in the White House. Either way, considering that Kerry lost NC by I believe 12% points, the fact that NC is even in play for Obama has me excited.

  • TUAlpha93 Oct 28, 2008

    "Those two independents caucus with, and more often than not vote with, the Dems. It effectively gives the Dems 51 seats." - Yes but on votes that I care about, Lieberman has voted with the Republicans so as far as I'm concerned, the Senate is deadlocked. Regardless, you need 2/3rds to pass a bill once it's vetoed. President Bush has vetoed everything that the Dem's have favored.

  • neutral observer Oct 28, 2008

    I know tons of local democrats that are voting for Mccain. They have to keep their opinions to themselves while dealing with their local politicians. They tell me on the side, that there is NO WAY they would ever vote for Obama. This is more prevelent than you think. They wanted a democrat to vote for, but the radical far left is what they got. Mccain will win, and we can then laugh at the bias media and leftist posters. The media has attacked Mccain and Palin on every little issue they could muster and gave Obama a magic carpet. I really believe this backfired. Can you imagine if it were Mccain that said "FDR in 1929 went on tv", as Biden did? Or what about Bidens many blunders, as well as Obamas? Biden has been in Washington for 30 years and has accomplished nothing. Putin will devour Binden and Obama. They will be to busy taking from those that work and giving to those that don't.

  • methinkthis Oct 28, 2008

    Thinking that Obama/Biden will win NC is a great insult to the intelligence of the people of NC. NC knows there is no free lunch and that the federal government has no business being in a wealth redistribution via income taxes. News update via Biden, the rich are now those making more than $150,000 a year and they will be expected to make their patriotic contribution. At least Biden is waking up a little, he realizes that taking the income of those making over $250,000 a year will not produce enough money to finance the huge Obama expenditures. Just think what that gigantic coronation ceremony is going to cost.

    Another interesting note for the Obamaites is that restriction of press coverage that has already started. If you want to ask tough questions don't expect a seat in the White House Press Room. Obama won't have a Director of Communications, he will have a Minister of Propaganda. Economic difficulties, populist candidate promising government will fix it, review history for ending

  • Adelinthe Oct 28, 2008

    dj -

    I respectfully disagree with what you posted.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Adelinthe Oct 28, 2008

    tibbs29 - "If there was an actual woman worthy on the ticket then I can see the gender bias."

    So you're saying that only women vote for other women?

    Pshaw!!! Surely you didn't mean that.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB