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Presidential election results 1960–2020
2020 49.93% 2,758,775 48.59% 2,684,292
2016 49.83% 2,362,631 46.17% 2,189,316
2012 50.39% 2,270,395 48.35% 2,178,391
2008 49.38% 2,128,474 49.70% 2,142,651
2004 56.02% 1,961,166 43.58% 1,525,849
2000 56.03% 1,631,163 43.20% 1,257,692
1996 48.73% 1,225,938 44.04% 1,107,849
1992 43.44% 1,134,661 42.65% 1,114,042
1988 57.97% 1,237,258 41.71% 890,167
1984 61.90% 1,346,481 37.89% 824,287
1980 49.30% 915,018 47.18% 875,635
1976 44.22% 741,960 55.27% 927,365
1972 69.46% 1,054,889 28.89% 438,705
1968 39.51% 627,192 29.24% 464,113
1964 43.85% 624,844 56.15% 800,139
1960 47.89% 655,420 52.11% 713,136
North Carolina State Capitol

Like most U.S. states, North Carolina is politically dominated by the Democratic and Republican political parties. North Carolina has 13 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and two seats in the U.S. Senate. North Carolina has voted Republican in nine of the last 10 presidential elections. In 2008, a plurality of North Carolinians voted for Barack Obama. North Carolina has mostly elected Democrats as governor in its history, with only two Republican governors elected in the entire twentieth century.


Pre-Civil War

Historically, North Carolina was politically divided between the eastern and western parts of the state. Before the Civil War, the eastern half of North Carolina supported the Democratic Party, primarily because the region contained most of the state's planter slaveholders who profited from large cash crops. Yeomen farmers in the western Piedmont and mountains were not slaveholders and tended to support the Whig party, seen as more moderate on slavery and more supportive of business interests.

Post-Civil War

After the Civil War, Republicans, including newly enfranchised freedmen, controlled the state government during Reconstruction. When federal troops were removed in the national compromise of 1877, the Democratic Party gained control of the state government, partly through white paramilitary groups conducting a campaign of violence (KKK) against African-Americans to discourage them from voting, especially in the Piedmont counties. Despite that, the number of African-American officeholders peaked in the 1880s as they were elected to local offices in African-American-majority districts.[1]

Hard pressed poor cotton farmers created the Populist Party to challenge the establishment. Conditions turned much worse in the Panic of 1893, as cotton prices fell. In North Carolina, largely black Republican Party formed a fusion ticket with the largely white Populist, giving them control of the state legislature in 1894. In 1896 the Republican-Populist alliance took control of the governorship and many state offices. In response, many white Democrats began efforts to reduce voter rolls and turnout.[2] During the late 1890s, Democrats began to pass legislation to restrict voter registration and reduce voting by African-Americans and poor whites.

With the first step accomplished in 1896 by making registration more complicated and reducing African-American voter turnout, in 1898 the state's Democratic Party regained control of the state government. Contemporary observers described the election as a "contest unquestionably accompanied by violence, intimidation and fraud—to what extent we do not know—in the securing of a majority of 60,000 for the new arrangement".[3] Using the slogan, "White Supremacy", and backed by influential newspapers such as the Raleigh News and Observer under publisher Josephus Daniels, the Democrats ousted the Populist-Republican majority. By 1900 new laws imposed poll taxes (voters had to pay a $1 tax, but not non-voters), residency requirements, and literacy tests. Initially, the grandfather clause was used to exempt illiterate whites from the literacy test, but many were gradually disfranchised as well. By these efforts, by 1904 white Democratic legislators had completely eliminated African-American voter turnout in North Carolina.[4] Disfranchisement lasted until it was ended by the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.

20th century

By 1900 North Carolina joined the "Solid Democratic South", with black people still members of the Republican Party but powerless in state and local affairs. However, some counties in North Carolina's western Piedmont and Appalachian Mountains continued to vote Republican, continuing a tradition that dated from their yeoman culture and opposition to secession before the Civil War. In 1928, North Carolina was one of five former Confederate states to vote for Republican Herbert Hoover, also electing two Republican Congressman from the western part of the state, Charles A. Jonas and George M. Pritchard. In 1952, aided by the presidential candidacy of popular war hero Dwight Eisenhower, the Republicans were successful in electing a U.S. Congressman, Charles R. Jonas, the son of Charles A. Jonas.

In the mid-20th century Republicans began to attract white voters in North Carolina and other Southern states. This was after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 under Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, which extended Federal protection and enforcement of civil rights for all American citizens. Because the Democratic Party had supported civil rights at the national level, most African-American voters initially aligned with the Democrats when they regained their franchise.[5] In 1972, aided by the landslide re-election of Richard Nixon, Republicans in North Carolina elected their first governor and U.S. senator of the 20th century.

North Carolina Governor's Mansion

Senator Jesse Helms played a major role in renewing the Republican Party and turning North Carolina into a two-party state. Under his banner, many conservative white Democrats in the central and eastern parts of North Carolina began to vote Republican, at least in national elections. In part, this was due to dissatisfaction with the national Democratic Party's stance on issues of civil rights and racial integration. In later decades, conservatives rallied to Republicans over social issues such as prayer in school, gun rights, abortion rights, and gay rights.[citation needed]

Except for regional favorite Jimmy Carter's election in 1976, North Carolina voted Republican in every presidential election from 1968 to 2004. At the state level, however, the Democrats still controlled most of the elected offices during this time.

In the middle of the 20th century, North Carolina politics followed a more moderate course than in other conservative Southern states, leading it to gain a reputation as progressive. Political scientist V. O. Key Jr. wrote in his 1949 work, Southern Politics in State and Nation, that North Carolina met "a closer approximation to national norms, or national expectations of performance, than elsewhere in the South. It enjoys a reputation for progressive outlook and action in many phases of life, especially industrial development, education and race relations."[6] However, by the late 1970s, the state's reputation was subjected to increasing scrutiny brought on by the Wilmington Ten criminal case and declining indexes of social and economic well-being.[6]

Two Presidents of the United States, James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson, were born and raised in North Carolina, but both began their political careers in neighboring Tennessee, and were elected President from that state. A third U.S. President, Andrew Jackson, may also have been born in North Carolina. However, as he was born almost precisely on the state line with South Carolina, both states claim him as a native son, and historians have debated for decades over the precise site of Jackson's birthplace. On the grounds of the old state capitol in Raleigh is a statue dedicated to the Presidents who were born in the state; Jackson is included in the statue. Jackson himself stated that he was born in what later became South Carolina, but at the time of his birth, the line between the states had not been surveyed.

21st century

North Carolina remains a control state. Only one of the state's 100 counties—Graham, a rural county in the mountains of the western part of the state —remains "dry" (the sale of alcoholic beverages is illegal).[7] Even in rural areas, the opposition to selling and drinking alcoholic beverages is declining.[citation needed]

By 2005, every state surrounding North Carolina had a lottery in operation. That same year, following substantial political maneuvering, the state legislature voted to implement the North Carolina Education Lottery. The state lottery began selling tickets on March 31, 2006. The lottery has had low sales since its inception.[8]

President George W. Bush carried North Carolina by double-digit percentages in 2000 and 2004, but in 2008, a strong year for the Democratic Party, its presidential candidate Barack Obama narrowly defeated Republican candidate John McCain in North Carolina, 49.7% to 49.4%, becoming the first Democratic presidential nominee to win the state in 32 years. In 2012, North Carolina returned to the Republican column with Mitt Romney defeating Obama 50.3% to 48.3%. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, both Republicans, represent the state in the US Senate.

The Democratic Party's strength is increasingly centered in densely populated urban counties such as Mecklenburg, Wake, Durham, and Guilford, where the bulk of the state's population growth has occurred. The Republicans maintain a strong presence in many of North Carolina's rural and small-town counties. The suburban areas around the state's larger cities usually hold the balance of power and can vote both ways, and in 2008 trended towards the Democratic Party before swinging towards the Republicans in 2010. State and local elections have become highly competitive compared to the previous one-party decades of the 20th century. For example, eastern North Carolina routinely elects Republican sheriffs and county commissioners, a development that did not happen until the 1980s.

In 2010 the Republicans won a majority of both houses of the state legislature for the first time since 1898. Whereas previous congressional redistricting plans for the state had favored Democrats, the newest plan is expected to favor Republicans. In 2012 the state also elected its first Republican governor and lieutenant governor, Pat McCrory and Dan Forest, in more than two decades while also giving the Republicans veto-proof majorities in both the State House of Representatives and State Senate. Several U.S. House of Representatives seats also flipped control, with the Republicans currently controlling ten seats to the Democrats' three.

In 2016, federal courts struck down many of voting restrictions and gerrymandered districts instituted by Republicans, saying they harmed racial minorities. After the 2016 election, Andrew Reynolds, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, drew media attention when he noted that North Carolina's election integrity score, as measured by the Electoral Integrity Project, was similar to Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone.[9][10][11] An editorial in the Wall Street Journal, however, says his study is based on flawed data, saying that the higher scores given to autocracies like Rwanda and Cuba only discredited the study.[12] Slate further remarked that the election integrity score of the United States "(62) is below that of Rwanda, a full-on autocracy".[13]

As of 2017, judges in state courts must identify their party affiliation on ballots, making North Carolina the first state in nearly a century to adopt partisan court elections.[14]

Third parties

Since the collapse of the Populists around the turn of the 20th century, third parties, such as the Green Party and Libertarian Party, have had difficulty making inroads in state politics. They have both run candidates for office with neither parties winning a state office. After engaging in a lawsuit with the state over ballot access, the Libertarian Party[15] qualified to be on the ballot after submitting more than 70,000 petition signatures.[16]

In 2016, the Green Party came close to gaining statewide ballot access, closer than the other six new parties, but still fell short of getting the required number of signatures.[17] The party, in collaboration with the Stein/Baraka presidential campaign, helped garner more write-in votes for Jill Stein than any presidential write-in candidate has ever received in North Carolina.[18] After a change to state law, the Green Party gained official standing and ballot access in 2018.[19] Shortly thereafter, the Constitution Party also collected enough signatures to qualify.[20]

Federal apportionments

North Carolina currently has 13 congressional districts, which, when combined with its two U.S. Senate seats, gives the state 15 electoral votes. In the 117th Congress, the state is represented by five Democratic and eight Republican Members of Congress, with one vacancy. The state's U.S. Senators (Richard Burr and Thom Tillis) are both Republicans. As of December 31, 2014, North Carolina is the 9th most populated state in the nation and is set to receive an additional Congressional seat after the next round of reapportionment.[21]

See also


  1. ^ Michael J. Klarman, From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality, New York: Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 30
  2. ^ Richard H. Pildes, "Democracy, Anti-Democracy, and the Canon", Constitutional Commentary, Vol.17, 2000, p. 27 Archived 2018-11-21 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 10 March 2008.
  3. ^ Shaw, Albert (2007-05-29). Albert Shaw, The American Monthly Review of Reviews, Vol. XXII, July-December 1900, pp. 273–274. Archived from the original on 2011-05-08. Retrieved 2011-07-24.
  4. ^ Richard H. Pildes, "Democracy, Anti-Democracy, and the Canon", Constitutional Commentary, Vol.17, 2000, pp. 12–13 Archived 2018-11-21 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 10 March 2008.
  5. ^ Historical Census Browser, 1960 US Census, University of Virginia[dead link]. Retrieved 13 March 2008.
  6. ^ a b "Rights cases hurt N. Carolina's image". Detroit Free Press. March 13, 1978. p. 22. Archived from the original on July 31, 2019. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  7. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions: North Carolina ABC Commission". Archived from the original on 2010-06-19. Retrieved 2010-07-02.
  8. ^ "Lottery commissioner says games are doing well despite low sales". WWAY NewsChannel 3|Wilmington NC News. Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2011-07-24.
  9. ^ "North Carolina is no longer classified as a democracy". newsobserver. Archived from the original on 2016-12-31. Retrieved 2016-12-31.
  10. ^ Seipel, Seipel (Dec 23, 2016). "North Carolina is no longer a democracy: report". TheHill. Archived from the original on December 26, 2016. Retrieved Dec 26, 2016.
  11. ^ Fausset, Richard; Martin, Jonathan (23 December 2016). "Battle Lines Turn North Carolina's Moderation Into a Distant Memory". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 24 February 2017. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  12. ^ "North Carolina's Iron Curtain". Wall Street Journal. 30 December 2016. Archived from the original on 30 December 2016. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  13. ^ "Political scientist: North Carolina "can no longer be classified as a full democracy"". Slate. Archived from the original on 31 December 2016. Retrieved 31 December 2016. For instance, the US’s overall rating (62) is below that of Rwanda, a full-on autocracy under strongman Paul Kagame; it seems foolish to infer from that that the US is less of a democracy than Rwanda.
  14. ^ Trip Gabriel (18 October 2017). "In North Carolina, Republicans Stung by Court Rulings Aim to Change the Judges". Archived from the original on 19 October 2017. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  15. ^ Hogarth, Susan (2005). "Special LPNC Announcement: First victory in LPNC Lawsuit!!!". Libertarian Party of North Carolina. Archived from the original on 2011-07-27. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
  16. ^ "NC Libertarians release candidate slate".[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ Mountain Xpress, September 1, 2016 - Party crashers by Dan Hesse Archived 2017-08-21 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Winger, Richard (6 December 2016). "Jill Stein Sets New Record for a Write-in Presidential Candidate in North Carolina". Ballot Access News. Archived from the original on 15 March 2017. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  19. ^ Jacobs, Associated Press, Rusty. "Green Party Now An Official Party In North Carolina". Archived from the original on 2019-07-12. Retrieved 2019-07-12.
  20. ^ "Associated Press: Constitution Party Gets Enough Signatures to Get on Ballots". Archived from the original on 2018-05-22. Retrieved 2018-05-21.
  21. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2014-12-31. Retrieved 2014-12-30.