Dr. Michael Bitzer has another blog that highlights the changing North Carolina electorate. This time, he looks at party switchers since the 2018 election. The numbers confirm patterns that have been in place both recently and ones going on for the past half century.
According to the data he collected at the state Board of Elections, 52,500 people have changed their party registration. Most, 57%, switched from one of the parties to unaffiliated. However, 21% changed to Republican and 20% changed to Democrat. Two percent changed to Libertarian.
Bitzer notes, “Younger generations were much more likely to go unaffiliated, while older voters were more prone to switch from Democratic to Republican.” A lot of those older Democrats have been voting Republican for a long time. They’re the last remnants of the one-party Democratic South.
In contrast, more than 60% of the unaffiliated voters who decided to choose a party, chose Democrat. That includes 70% of Generation Z (the youngest voters) and about two-thirds of millennials. While these voters are less likely to show up at the voting booth, they give a glimpse at the changing dynamic that will take place over the next decade or two.
The increase in unaffiliated voters reflects a general dissatisfaction with the party system itself. While some of those unaffiliated voters may be true swing voters, many of them are just as partisan as their party-allied cohorts. The lack of party registration just makes them harder for campaigns to identify.
Still, all the switchers make up less than 1% of the registered voters. They won’t likely determine the outcome of the elections this year. They do give us a glimpse of trends occurring in the North Carolina electorate. Republicans will continue to age and die, while Democrats will continue to attract younger voters who will vote with increasing frequently.