NYT: Democrats, Hagan, Face Turnout Problem in North Carolina

Image: NYT: Democrats, Hagan, Face Turnout Problem in North Carolina

Tuesday, 29 Apr 2014 07:47 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan may be vulnerable in her bid for re-election because of low midterm election turnout among young voters, The Upshot blog of The New York Times reported.

Youth apathy may prove to be Hagan’s Achilles' heel, Nate Cohn wrote. In a state where election outcomes are historically determined by that demographic, this presents a big challenge for Hagan.

Perhaps more than any other state, North Carolina’s generation gap is twice as damaging to Democrats than Republicans, according to Cohn, who notes the Tar Heel State’s marked divide between young voters, those under 30, and older ones, those 65 and over.

Older voters here tend to be "culturally Southern and conservative" while their younger counterparts are "more diverse and more liberal, especially around the Research Triangle and Charlotte."

Low voter turnout is an issue in midterm elections nationally, but in North Carolina, it is especially troublesome, according to Cohn.

Hagan "originally won her seat in 2008, when she won by a decisive 8 points," Cohn wrote. "But her entire margin of victory came from voters under 30, who gave her a staggering 71 percent of their votes and represented about 17 percent of the electorate. If the voting public had been as old and white as it was in the 2010 midterms, Ms. Hagan’s share of the vote would have fallen beneath 50 percent."

North Carolina’s age divide is among the most pronounced in the country, according to Cohn, who notes that in 2012, voters 65 and over voted for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney by 29 points, more than twice his 12-point advantage nationally among older voters. President Barack Obama ran away with the North Carolina youth vote by a 35-point margin, far higher than his 24-point national margin.

"This 64-point gap between young and old North Carolinians was nearly twice as large as it was nationally," Cohn wrote. "Lower youth turnout, then, is twice as damaging to Democrats in North Carolina as it is nationally.

"When young voters stay home, the state reverts to its Republican past and the more conservative bent of the South. And judging from the last midterm election, the plunge in youth turnout could be huge. Eighteen- to 25-year-olds accounted for a mere 3.9 percent of voters in 2010, down from 10.4 percent of voters in 2008, according to the secretary of state’s office. Older voters jumped from 17.5 to 26.1 percent of those turning out."

The lone factor in Hagan’s favor – incumbency – may not be a plus either, according to Cohn, who says she suffers from low name recognition and "abysmal" job approval ratings.

Citing a New York Times/Kaiser Family Foundation poll of registered voters last week, Cohn says Hagan has just a two-point lead over her likely Republican opponent. Thom Tillis.

Considering polls assume a younger and more diverse electorate than what will likely show up at the voting booth, Hagan’s lead ended up becoming a 3-point deficit among voters who said they would definitely vote, according to Cohn.

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