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Using the May 8 Primary Voting Figures to Gauge Unaffiliated Voter Sentiment in Watauga County and NC

By Jesse Wood

Nov. 1, 2012. With such a high number of unaffiliated voters registered in Watauga County, it’s obvious that the unaffiliated voters will swing the election.

But how will they vote? That’s the question pundits wish they could answer and one that we won’t find the exact answer to until the votes are tallied next week. 

But what if – and this isn’t an exact science – you used the May 8 primary voter history to glean information into how an unaffiliated voter might sway – assuming that Republicans and Democrats chose their parties respective ballot. 

During the primary, unaffiliated voters chose either a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or nonpartisan ballot to vote for Amendment One/Marriage Protection Amendment and other candidates.

By subtracting the number of registered Republicans who voted from the number of Republican ballots requested, one can figure the number of unaffiliated voters that requested a Republican ballot. And this can be done with the Democrats and Libertarians, too.

The High Country Press did this using data from the N.C. State Board of Elections. On Thursday, we reviewed the unaffiliated voter history in Watauga County from the May 8 primary to figure out if unaffiliated voters lean conservative or liberal.

Here’s what we found out about the 4,326 unaffiliated voters in Watauga County that voted in the May 8 primary.

  • 31.3 percent requested a Republican ballot
  • 30.2 percent requested a Democrat ballot
  • 37.6 percent requested a nonpartisan ballot
  • .9 percent requested a Libertarian ballot 
Well, that didn’t shed too much light on this situation did it? It looks like the Republicans have a one percent lead against Democrats among the unaffiliated voters that requested a Republican or Democrat ballot. 
But what if, regarding unaffiliated voters during the May 8 primary, we look at the state as a whole?
Here’s what ballots the 435,597 unaffiliated voters in N.C. voted requested during the May 8 primary:
  • 30.5 percent requested a Democrat ballot
  • 44 percent requested a Republican ballot
  • 24 percent requested a nonpartisan ballot
  • .1 percent requested a Libertarian ballot
That’s a 14 percent difference between Democrat and Republican ballots requested by unaffiliated voters.
Of course, the 435,597 percent of those unaffiliated voters in that May 8 primary only represent 25 percent of the total unaffiliated registered voters in the state as of Nov. 1. Also, these results could be skewed by Ron Paul’s candidacy that had traction in some liberal circles. 
Plus, the fact that more Republicans – and perhaps those undecided – might be likely to vote in a primary where presidential candidates are on the ballot as opposed to the Democrat ballot where President Barrack Obama was the sole candidate for the Democrat’s presidential candidate.
Here’s how the 44,853 registered voters in Watauga County stack up*
  • Unaffiliated: 37 percent
  • Republicans: 33 percent
  • Democrats: 29 percent 

Here’s how the 6,621,631 registered voters in North Carolina stack up**

  • Democrats: 43 percent
  • Republicans: 31 percent
  • Unaffiliated: 26 percent 

*As of Oct. 30
**As of Nov. 1
Source: N.C. State Board of Elections