Located in the Outer Banks region, Dare County was named after Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World. The population is 33,920, a number that greatly increases during the summer. The county seat is Manteo.
Dare became popular as a retirement destination in the 1970s. Dare is also the whitest county in eastern North Carolina, at 92.3% white. Yet Republican victory here is never overwhelming, meaning that whites in Dare are more moderate than whites in neighboring counties. Notably, Amendment 1 narrowly failed here last year. The moderate Republicanism of many of Dare’s residence, along with concerns that the amendment would affect tourism, resulted in its defeat.
1988: R+23 (Solid Republican)
1992: R+10 (Leans Republican)
1996: R+12 (Strong Republican)
2000: R+13 (Strong Republican)
2004: R+18 (Solid Republican)
2008: R+16 (Solid Republican)
2012: R+20 (Solid Republican)
Forecast: Dare is home to a number of socially moderate, fiscally conservative voters, many of whom are not native to North Carolina. This means that Dare County has a high number of swing voters, even though Republicans are almost assured of victory countywide. The overwhelmingly white electorate is a huge obstacle for Democrats. Mitt Romney did very well here, beating Obama by 16 points. Romney’s appeal to more affluent, older voters helped him in Dare County.
Whites in Dare County are actually more liberal than the average white North Carolinian. But the lack of a significant minority vote is a huge obstacle for Democrats at a time when they are increasingly becoming less reliant on white voters. Expect Dare County to remain solid Republican in the near future. Happily for Democrats, they still control the County Commission. Former Senate Majority Leader Marc Basnight, a North Carolina institution, hailed from Dare County, but Republican Bill Cook now holds his seat.
Dare experienced tremendous population growth in the closing decades of the 20th century, but growth has greatly subsided since then. An average to below average growth rate is expected in the 2010s.