MORRISVILLE, N.C. (4/13/23) – New analysis of last year’s midterm General Election in North Carolina shows that white voters achieved their highest rate of turnout for a midterm election in more than three decades, despite the fact that the overall rate of voter participation declined in 2022 from 2018.
“When you learn who felt energized to vote and who didn’t, the story of 2022 is as much about race as it is about a Red or Blue wave,” said Carol Moreno Cifuentes, Policy & Programs Manager with voting rights group Democracy North Carolina, which conducted the analysis from data at the State Board of Elections.
In terms of party breakdown, the report found that white Democrats turned out to vote at a higher rate (63%) than white Republicans (61%), but Republicans won several key legislative contests in part because there are nearly twice as many registered white Republicans as white Democrats in North Carolina. Research also found that less than 42% of Black registered voters cast a ballot – the lowest turnout of Black voters since 2010. However, it would be dangerously inaccurate to blame diminished Black voter turnout for losses by Democratic candidates, the report said.
“The polarizing debates over critical race theory, abortion rights, gun regulation, and January 6th hearings likely energized white voters, regardless of party or gender, and they were highly motivated to have their voices heard,” Cifuentes said. “But these issues didn’t engage Black voters as much, and both major parties failed to invest in the messaging and on the ground operations needed to elevate their interest in voting. The parties and major campaigns seemed to either take Black voters for granted or ignore them.”
Other indicators highlight the turnout gap between white and non-white voters in 2022:
- A county-by-county chart of turnout rates in 2018 and 2022 shows the near uniform pattern of turnout increasing for whites but declining for people of color, regardless of region or the county’s size, racial makeup, or partisan profile.
- Overall, the 16 percentage point gap between white turnout (58%) and Black turnout (42%) in 2022 was twice the 8 point gap in 2018 and larger than any other statewide election in this century. However, missing white voters are a much bigger problem for the Democratic party; if the party had as many white registered voters as the Republican Party in North Carolina, and 58% of them voted, it would have added 557,000 more ballots from Democrats in 2022
- Statewide, only 26% of registered voters who identify as Hispanic/Latine voted in 2022, a sharp drop from 35% in 2018.
- The racial divide in 2022 was particularly stark among young voters: registered white youth aged 18-25 voted at roughly twice the rate of Black and Brown youth (30% white vs. 16% Black vs. 14% Hispanic/Latine).
“As a nonpartisan voting rights organization, Democracy North Carolina works hard to reduce barriers to voting, especially among people of color,” said Cheryl Carter, Co-Executive Director of Democracy NC. “But we also recognize that voter participation is heavily influenced by robust partisan organizing and messaging, as well as campaign money and the candidate’s personal appeal.”
Learn more, including the breakdown of votes in counties with key sheriff races, at demnc.co/turnoutreport.
Democracy North Carolina is a statewide nonpartisan organization that strengthens democratic structures, builds power among disenfranchised communities, and inspires confidence in a transformed political process that works for all.