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United States presidential election results for North Carolina[1]
Year Republican / Whig Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 2,758,775 49.93% 2,684,292 48.59% 81,737 1.48%
2016 2,362,631 49.83% 2,189,316 46.17% 189,617 4.00%
2012 2,270,395 50.39% 2,178,391 48.35% 56,586 1.26%
2008 2,128,474 49.38% 2,142,651 49.70% 39,664 0.92%
2004 1,961,166 56.02% 1,525,849 43.58% 13,992 0.40%
2000 1,631,163 56.03% 1,257,692 43.20% 22,407 0.77%
1996 1,225,938 48.73% 1,107,849 44.04% 182,020 7.24%
1992 1,134,661 43.44% 1,114,042 42.65% 363,147 13.90%
1988 1,237,258 57.97% 890,167 41.71% 6,945 0.33%
1984 1,346,481 61.90% 824,287 37.89% 4,593 0.21%
1980 915,018 49.30% 875,635 47.18% 65,180 3.51%
1976 741,960 44.22% 927,365 55.27% 8,581 0.51%
1972 1,054,889 69.46% 438,705 28.89% 25,018 1.65%
1968 627,192 39.51% 464,113 29.24% 496,188 31.26%
1964 624,844 43.85% 800,139 56.15% 0 0.00%
1960 655,420 47.89% 713,136 52.11% 0 0.00%
1956 575,062 49.34% 590,530 50.66% 0 0.00%
1952 558,107 46.09% 652,803 53.91% 0 0.00%
1948 258,572 32.68% 459,070 58.02% 73,567 9.30%
1944 263,155 33.29% 527,399 66.71% 0 0.00%
1940 213,633 25.97% 609,015 74.03% 0 0.00%
1936 223,283 26.60% 616,141 73.40% 40 0.00%
1932 208,344 29.28% 497,566 69.93% 5,591 0.79%
1928 348,923 54.94% 286,227 45.06% 0 0.00%
1924 191,753 39.73% 284,270 58.89% 6,664 1.38%
1920 232,848 43.22% 305,447 56.69% 463 0.09%
1916 120,890 41.71% 168,383 58.10% 562 0.19%
1912 29,139 11.95% 144,507 59.24% 70,272 28.81%
1908 114,887 45.49% 136,928 54.22% 739 0.29%
1904 82,442 39.67% 124,091 59.71% 1,285 0.62%
1900 132,997 45.47% 157,733 53.92% 1,788 0.61%
1896 155,122 46.82% 174,408 52.64% 1,807 0.55%
1892 100,346 35.80% 132,951 47.44% 46,973 16.76%
1888 134,784 47.20% 147,902 51.79% 2,877 1.01%
1884 125,021 46.59% 142,905 53.25% 430 0.16%
1880 115,616 47.98% 124,204 51.55% 1,126 0.47%
1876 108,484 46.38% 125,427 53.62% 0 0.00%
1872 94,772 57.38% 70,130 42.46% 261 0.16%
1868 96,939 53.41% 84,559 46.59% 0 0.00%
1860 0 0.00% 2,737 2.83% 93,975 97.17%
1856 0 0.00% 48,243 56.78% 36,720 43.22%
1852 39,043 49.49% 39,788 50.43% 60 0.08%
1848 44,054 55.17% 35,772 44.80% 26 0.03%
1844 43,232 52.39% 39,287 47.61% 2 0.00%
1840 46,567 57.68% 34,168 42.32% 0 0.00%
1836 23,521 46.90% 26,631 53.10% 1 0.00%
North Carolina State Capitol

Like most U.S. states, North Carolina is politically dominated by the Democratic and Republican political parties. North Carolina has 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and two seats in the U.S. Senate. North Carolina has voted for the Republican candidate in all but one presidential election since 1980; the one exception was in 2008, when a plurality of North Carolinians voted for Barack Obama. However, since that election, the state has remained closely contested with Republicans winning by no more than four points and obtaining a majority of the vote only in 2012. This stands in contrast to the post-Civil War era, as the state was a strongly Democratic Solid South state from 1880 to 1964, only voting Republican in 1928.[2]

However, North Carolina has mostly elected Democratic governors in its history; only four Republican governors have been elected since Reconstruction, and of those only one served two terms.


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.[3]

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.[4] 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".[5] 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.[6] 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 congressmen 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 the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 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.[7] 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."[8] 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.[8]

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).[9] 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.[10]

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.[11][12][13] 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.[14] Slate further remarked that the election integrity score of the United States "(62) is below that of Rwanda, a full-on autocracy".[15]

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.[16]

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[17] qualified to be on the ballot after submitting more than 70,000 petition signatures.[18]

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.[19] 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.[20] After a change to state law, the Green Party gained official standing and ballot access in 2018.[21] Shortly thereafter, the Constitution Party also collected enough signatures to qualify.[22][needs update]

Federal representation

Main article: North Carolina's congressional districts

North Carolina currently has 14 House districts In the 118th Congress, Democrats and Republicans each hold 7 seats. There are as follows: [23]

North Carolina's two United States Senators are Republicans Thom Tillis and Ted Budd, serving since 2015 and 2023, respectively.

North Carolina is part of the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina in the federal judiciary. The district's cases are appealed to the Richmond-based United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

See also


  1. ^ Leip, David. "Presidential General Election Results Comparison – North Carolina". US Election Atlas. Retrieved October 24, 2022.
  2. ^ "North Carolina Presidential Election Voting History - 270toWin".
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Historical Census Browser, 1960 US Census, University of Virginia[dead link]. Retrieved 13 March 2008.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions: North Carolina ABC Commission". Archived from the original on 2010-06-19. Retrieved 2010-07-02.
  10. ^ "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.
  11. ^ "North Carolina is no longer classified as a democracy". newsobserver. Archived from the original on 2016-12-31. Retrieved 2016-12-31.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "North Carolina's Iron Curtain". Wall Street Journal. 30 December 2016. Archived from the original on 30 December 2016. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  15. ^ "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.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "NC Libertarians release candidate slate".[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ Mountain Xpress, September 1, 2016 - Party crashers by Dan Hesse Archived 2017-08-21 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Jacobs, Associated Press, Rusty (27 March 2018). "Green Party Now An Official Party In North Carolina". Archived from the original on 2019-07-12. Retrieved 2019-07-12.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ "Associated Press: Constitution Party Gets Enough Signatures to Get on Ballots". Archived from the original on 2018-05-22. Retrieved 2018-05-21.
  23. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2014-12-31. Retrieved 2014-12-30.