Lincoln County, a rectangular county located northwest of Charlotte, has a mix of both old and new North Carolina, but mostly old. The county seat is Lincolnton. As of 2010, the population was 78,265.
A population boom in the last couple of years has transformed the county into an exurb of Charlotte. In the eastern part of the county, a number of new subdivisions have appeared. The western part is more rural and its distance from Charlotte has resulted in a lower growth rate. Historically, manufacturing was a key industry here.
The county was named for General Benjamin Lincoln, who served in the Revolutionary War, and not Abraham Lincoln as many erroneously believe.
Politically, Lincoln County is strongly Republican; in the days of the Solid Democratic South its western location made it more competitive for Republican candidates. Republicans dominate the legislative delegation and the Board of Commissioners, and in Congress the county is represented by Republican Patrick McHenry. New residents also skew Republican, but the growth rate been greatly reduced since the advent of the Great Recession. Higher gas prices in recent years have made exurban areas less attractive, limiting their potential for growth.
1988: R+21 (Solid Republican)
1992: R+18 (Solid Republican)
1996: R+26 (Solid Republican)
2000: R+31 (Solid Republican)
2004: R+33 (Solid Republican)
2008: R+41 (Solid Republican)
2012: R+43 (Solid Republican)
Forecast: Though the 2000s brought with it many new residents, Lincoln County still retains a rural character more typical of old North Carolina. Once national Democrats became the ‘liberal’ party, the county became solid for Republican candidates. Democrats have continued to lose their old rural voters, and new residents have proven to hold similar views as Lincoln County natives. Overwhelmingly white and exurban, the Obama coalition is nonexistent here, and Obama’s candidacy has pushed the county even further to the right. Interestingly, Elaine Marshall outperformed Obama here, so his numbers here (he got less than 30% in 2012) probably represent a floor for Democrats. Someone like Hillary Clinton would probably do better, but not by much. Lincoln County is strongly Republican, with few swing voters, and that is unlikely to change anytime soon.
The growth rate during the 2000s here was 22.71%. The growth rate now is below the national average. Since most of Lincoln County’s new residents came from the Charlotte area and not from out of state, one could argue that the decreasing appeal of exurban areas has forced Republican-leaning voters in cities to stay put, thereby making urban counties like Mecklenburg less Democratic than they might be otherwise.