2012 turnout data shows NC sharply split

Posted January 22, 2013 11:35 a.m. EST
Updated January 22, 2013 12:44 p.m. EST

A new analysis of voter turnout data for the November 2012 election proves North Carolina has earned its reputation as a swing state.

Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney evenly split the 10 counties with the highest turnout. Beaufort, Davie, Greene, Moore and Person voted for Romney, while Chatham, Granville, Hertford, Wake and Warren voted for Obama. 

The report by Democracy North Carolina looked at data gathered by the State Board of Elections. 

Overall, turnout in 2012 was 68.3 percent – down slightly from 69.6 percent in 2008. Similar declines were apparent through most Democratic subgroups.

Only Republicans posted gains in turnout. Republican women picked up a percentage point, from 72.3 percent in 2008 to 73.4 percent in 2012. GOP men made an even bigger gain, from 70.7 to 72.2 percent.    

Meantime, the number of registered Democrats who voted in 2012 actually dropped by nearly 53,000, even though the party added about 8,800 registered voters since 2008. 

Still, the political subgroup with the highest turnout was African-American Democratic women, at 76.4 percent – down just one-tenth of a percentage point from 2008.

“The presidential election was a polarizing, emotional experience for core supporters of both major candidates,” said Democracy NC director Bob Hall in a release. “Candidates, parties and interest groups invested in mobilizing voters and helped them understand that their vote was important for themselves and for society.”

Predictions that Obama's support for same-sex marriage would depress African-American turnout in North Carolina did not pan out. While turnout among black voters dropped slightly, from 71.9 to 70.3 percent, that's in line with the drop in overall turnout. According to Hall, about 85 percent of black voters in North Carolina are registered Democrats. 

However, predictions that young voters would be less motivated were true. Turnout for voters 18-25 dropped by more than 5 percent from 2008, though it was slightly higher in counties with large universities. 

Hispanic voters also saw a steep drop. Their turnout was 4.9 percent lower than in 2008. 

Senior citizens, on the other hand, picked up 4.2 percent at the polls, with a 2012 turnout of 76.6 percent – the highest of any demographic group.