Anson County is a rural county located in the southern Piedmont region of North Carolina. Although Anson is less than fifty miles away from central Charlotte, the county is much more demographically similar to eastern North Carolina – it is part of the state’s Black Belt, a stretch of rural counties in the eastern part of the state known for its historically large African American population. Around 48% of the county’s 25,626 residents are African American as of mid-2017, one of the highest proportions in the state. The county’s population fell slightly from 2010 to 2017, an increasingly typical trend in the state’s rural areas.
Anson County was formed by the division of Bladen County in 1750, initially encompassing a vast swath of land on the state’s southern border extending north and west indefinitely. Most of the county’s territory has since been divided into new counties, although it retains its border with South Carolina. Anson’s two largest towns are Wadesboro (the county seat) and Polkton, with smaller towns including Ansonville, Lilesville, Morven, Peachland, and McFarlan. Cotton production and other forms of agriculture have historically driven the county’s economy, although it is struggling to keep up to pace with growth in other parts of the state.
The county has historically been one of the most heavily Democratic counties in North Carolina – it has voted for all but two Democratic presidential nominees since the end of Reconstruction (segregationist George Wallace’s third-party run in 1968 and Richard Nixon’s landslide reelection bid in 1972 were the exceptions). This phenomenon was initially due to the large presence of white, conservative Dixiecrats in the county, although the decline in this population means that African Americans now constitute the bulk of the county’s Democratic support. African American voters in the county continue to provide large margins of support for Democrats, and the county has voted Democratic in every statewide election over at least the last three election cycles.
1992 Presidential PVI: D+29 (Safe D)
1996 Presidential PVI: D+27 (Safe D)
2000 Presidential PVI: D+20 (Safe D)
2004 Presidential PVI: D+21 (Safe D)
2008 Presidential PVI: D+14 (Likely D)
2012 Presidential PVI: D+21 (Safe D)
2016 Presidential PVI: D+11 (Likely D)
|2016 President –
Hillary Clinton: 55.56%
Donald Trump: 42.73%
|2016 Senate –
Deborah Ross: 55.56%
Richard Burr: 42.04%
2016 Governor –
Democratic candidates typically win more of the county’s precincts than Clinton, Ross, and Cooper did – their relatively poor showing in 2016 was predominantly due to lower African American turnout, as well as the increasingly distant relationship between rural white voters and the Democratic Party. Rural white voters are generally inclined to continue supporting statewide and national Democrats who have not gained as much media exposure, explaining Deborah Ross’s larger margin of victory than those of Hillary Clinton and Roy Cooper. These voters are even more inclined to continue supporting local Democratic candidates – all seven current members of Anson’s county commission are Democrats, and six were elected without opposition in the most recent cycle.
In the coming years, Anson County will likely remain solidly blue due to high African American support, even as changing demographics and decreasing Democratic support among white voters turn nearby rural areas red. Anson’s isolation as a rural blue county in a sea of red can already be seen in its legislative and congressional representation – the county is generally drawn into districts with Charlotte’s heavily Republican exurbs, explaining its representation by Congressman Robert Pittenger (R-Charlotte), state Senator Tom McInnis (R-Rockingham), and state Representative Mark Brody (R-Monroe). Republicans should not expect to be competitive in Anson County itself anytime soon, although if current trends in rural, racially-polarized parts of the state continue, this may one day change.
To access the 2013 version of this profile written by John Wynne, please click here.