I have a couple of observations from the NC Amendment 1 vote last night. First of all, I’ve never been more ashamed of the state I grew up in. I say that coming from one of the reddest parts of western NC, which hasn’t elected a Democrat to the House since Nixon was in charge of the country. Second, all the polling was basically wrong as hell. Most everyone agreed that the Amendment was going to pass by 8-10 points or so. It ended up passing by 22 and with hefty turnout.
So why did it pass so handily? There seems to be something of a Bradley/Wilder Effect when it comes to ballot measures opposing gay marriage. People say one thing to pollsters and vote another. On the other hand, this was a primary election, and neither primary was competitive. Still, about 960,000 voters turned out for each primary and 2.1 million voters overall, so we can assume there was an even split between GOP voters and Dem voters for Tuesday voting on Amendment 1.
And yet 1.3 million voters voted for the amendment. Back of the napkin math says that even if all 960,000 Republicans voted for the ban, there’s still a pretty good chunk of Dems and independents who did so as well. Now, were they African-Americans and Latinos who did so? The evidence isn’t there, in fact it points to the opposite. The counties with higher urban and minority populations were the counties where the amendment lost: Wake, Durham, Orange and Chatham counties (RTP and Duke/NC State/UNC), Mecklenburg (Charlotte), Buncombe (Asheville) and Watauga County (Boone/Appalachian State). In Guilford County (Greensboro), Forsyth County (Winston-Salem) and New Hanover County (Wilmington) the Amendment passed only by very narrow margins.
But it was the overwhelmingly red exurban and rural counties where the Amendment triumphed by 65-80%+ margins. Union, Gaston, Lincoln, Catawba, Cabarrus and Iredell counties all outside Charlotte had major turnout for the amendment, and that was repeated in the more rural counties across the state. The Amendment won in 93 of 100 counties and in some counties the margins were huge.
If you want someone to pin Amendment 1 on, start with the NC General Assembly who scheduled the vote for the primary and not the general where more turnout would have helped to defeat the measure, not to mention the vast wave of Republican voters in rural NC that turned out when our side stayed home, period. Progressives only win when we show up at the polls. The bigots? They’ll always show up no matter what. That’s why and how they win.
Consider this an object lesson.