Monday numbers: A closer look at the counties where unaffiliated voters top Democrats and Republicans

Monday numbers: A closer look at the counties where unaffiliated voters top Democrats and Republicans

This map shows the 17 North Carolina counties in which unaffiliated voters now outnumber registered Republicans and Democrats.

North Carolina marked a major milestone last week. Unaffiliated voters surpassed Democrats and Republicans as North Carolina’s largest group of voters.

Independent now make up 34.6% (2,503,997 ) of North Carolina’s registered voters. That edges out Democrats at 34.5% (2,496,434) and Republican at 30.3% (2,192,073). Libertarians (48,654) make up 0.7% of the state’s voters.

Meredith College political science professor David McLennan tells NC Policy Watch that while people might register as unaffiliated, they still can hold strong political leanings.

David McLennan

“Really only about 10 percent of the unaffiliated group are true independents,” McLennan said. “It’s also worth saying they don’t vote necessarily at the same degree as registered Republicans and Democrats. There’s about a 10 percent drop-off.”

McLennan said the drop-off could be the result of a lack of engagement in the election process or frustration with the two parties.

“As we see the two parties to some degree move to the extremes, I think a lot of people in the unaffiliated group are just people who consider themselves more moderate,” he explained. “The real question is what do candidates do to try to get at the true independents, but also the people who aren’t party regulars. I think you need a different message, and maybe different policy positions to stir-up those unaffiliated voters.”

For this week’s Monday numbers column, we take a closer look the 17 counties in North Carolina where unaffiliated voters top Democrats and Republicans. (Numbers are based on State Board of Elections data from March 19, 2022.) To see which party holds the majority in your county, click here and visit the NC State Board of Elections.

1. Buncombe County
Democrat 75,307
Republican 45,791
Unaffiliated 81,668

Image: North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE)

2. Cabarrus County
Democrat 44,089
Republican 51,286
Unaffiliated 54,195

3. Camden County
Democrat 1,485
Republican 2,908
Unaffiliated 3,433

4. Chatham County
Democrat 21,184
Republican 14,030
Unaffiliated 22,972

5. Dare County
Democrat 7,581
Republican 10,470
Unaffiliated 12,352

6. Haywood County
Democrat 13,322
Republican 15,769
Unaffiliated 16,111

7. Henderson County
Democrat 17,528
Republican 31,876
Unaffiliated 36,836

8. Jackson County
Democrat 9,014
Republican 8,208
Unaffiliated 11,540

9. Lee County
Democrat 13,122
Republican 11,687
Unaffiliated 13,406

10. Madison County
Democrat 5,436
Republican 4,690
Unaffiliated 6,563

11. New Hanover County
Democrat 51,218
Republican 53,590
Unaffiliated 69,097

12. Perquimans County
Democrat 3,156
Republican 3,330
Unaffiliated 3,446

13. Polk County
Democrat 3,740
Republican 5,955
Unaffiliated 6,249

14. Swain County
Democrat 3,114
Republican 2,972
Unaffiliated 3,713

15. Transylvania County
Democrat 6,072
Republican 8,490
Unaffiliated 11,481

16. Wake County
Democrat 288,365
Republican 179,911
Unaffiliated 319,913
Libertarian 6,477*  (*Wake also holds the distinction have having the largest number of registered Libertarians in the state.)

17. Watauga County
Democrat 11,548
Republican 12,691
Unaffiliated 19,410