North Carolina was for many years a Republican stronghold, but Barack Obama won the state by a slim margin in 2008. It is said that his success can partly be attributed to the demographic changes the state has seen in recent decades. But how do the state's demographics influence the voter's behavior in North Carolina? Only one out of a wide range of tricky questions on the election outcome.
A group of students from the Strittmatter Gymnasium in Gransee, Germany, are currently focusing on the election in the state of North Carolina and came up with some interesting questions. Who else if not our U.S. election expert Matt Riley could help us out here? Matt if a former intern with the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, a student in Public Policy, German and Policy Journalism at Duke University in North Carolina, and currently on an exchange semester in Berlin. At Duke, Matt writes as a journalist and investigative reporter at The Chronicle, the university's student paper, and has covered political stories ranging from Virginia congressional campaigns, North Carolina state politics, and a profile of lead U.S. negotiator in the Iran nuclear negotiations.
This is what the students from Gransee wanted to know from Matt:
How is North Carolina most likely going to vote and what influences do media have in this case?
“Hi Matt, we are students from the Strittmatter-Gymnasium-Gransee in Germany. We are working on the project "US Election". Every school got one state. We got North Carolina, so you are the best expert for us. We have to decide whether North Carolina will vote for Trump or Clinton, but it is very difficult for us. First we thought Trump would win but now, after reading the opinions of some North Carolina students we aren’t sure any longer if our first opinion was right. There are some questions we would like to ask you.
- How do you think are the TV debates going to influence the people's attitudes and (social) media?
- And how do you think the media influences the people?
- Most importantly, what's your prediction for the North Carolina vote? And why?
We look forward to your answer. Thanks for helping us.
Jennifer, Lena, Jolanthe, Carolin”
Here is Matt what replied to them:
“Dear Jennifer, Lena, Jolanthe, and Carolin, recent polling by fivethirtyeight suggests that Clinton is ahead of trump by 2 to 6 percent in the traditionally red state. These numbers are close, but still disappointing for Trump as North Carolina (despite its balanced electorate) went Republican in three of the last four presidential elections.
Trump may be holding out for a late comeback, Nate Silver writes, but because of the way North Carolinians vote, the picture is a bit more complicated. North Carolina is unique because it has high rates of early and absentee voting. While most of these early voters are dedicated partisan voters and not swing voters, this still means that many voters have already cast their ballots in favor of Clinton.
North Carolina is vital for a second reason Silver notes. He writes that, "because of the state's demographics, it acts as a hedge for Clinton in the event of a collapse in her support among white voters without college degrees, especially in the Midwest." Silver rates North Carolina as the fourth most important state in the election, ahead of traditionally prominent states like Ohio and Colorado, because of these two factors.
On the media/campaign/debate:
North Carolina is the only state with the elections for Governor, U.S. Senate, and President rated as a "toss-up" by the Cook report. This gives it political importance beyond that of the presidential election, as any increased investment in TV ads and more traditionally door-to-door campaigns could tip the scales in these three important elections one way.
Presidential debates are often deemed more important than they actually are. They rarely act as a polling turning point as many people think. But they do move the polls a few points. The last presidential debate, however, had an important impact on the polling for Clinton, who experienced a 5.5 percent bump, as noted in the News and Observer. These are impressive numbers for Clinton, especially because the effect of the debate is more muted in North Carolina due to high early voting participation."
Thank you, Matt, for taking the time to address our students' questions on the state of North Carolina. I would also like to thank the students from the Strittmatter Gymnasium in Gransee for your interest in the exchange with our U.S. election experts and for your interesting questions.
Janina Schmidt obtained her B.A. in teaching Economics and English as a Second Language (ESL) at Leuphana University Lüneburg in 2014. After earning her Master's degree (expected 09/2017), Janina intends to teach ESL as well as English for Specific Purposes with an economic focus at vocational schools. As a student assistant she currently supports the development of the U.S. Embassy School Election Project 2016.