50 Takes on Trump: North Carolina by Christopher Cronin
50 Takes on Trump is a regular series in which Political Scientists analyze how President Trump has been received in his/her state.
North Carolina is a fairly purple state. Partisanship is close to fifty/fifty Republican/Democrat for the citizenry overall. The history of North Carolina’s political culture speaks to this split with plenty of southern conservatism mixed with genuine progressivism around certain policy areas like education.
This purple nature; however, has not been reflected in recent elections. The context for a Trump presidency in North Carolina includes a recent swing to consistent Republican victories up and down the ballot.
Trump received roughly 50 percent of the popular vote in North Carolina to Clinton’s 46 percent. This was not too surprising for a state that has voted Republican for presidents since 1980 with the exception of 2008. In 2016 Republicans basically won all of North Carolina except for the Governor’s office.
The race revealed some of the cultural politics at the heart of voter passion before and after the election. A divisive House Bill (HB2) restricting transgender bathroom use was a focal point. Republican Governor Pat McCrory became the poster-boy for the bill and lost to the Democratic challenger Roy Cooper, even though Trump and Republicans at large did well.
Some of the most energetic and infamous Trump rallies occurred in North Carolina, including the headline-making rally in Fayetteville where protestors were physically assaulted. These incidents, and the issue of HB2, were specific to North Carolina, but are common to the political and cultural divide felt many places across the nation.
Major divisions include rural vs. urban, educated vs. less-educated, and native vs. transplant. This last divide is a consistent and increasingly apparent fissure given the growing influx of transplants to the Sunbelt.
Redistricting was also a major source of Republican strength. The redrawn of districts that resulted from the 2010 census have were challenged in the courts, who ordered them redrawn, though they remain heavily sculpted in favor of safe Republican majorities.
North Carolina's politics regained some purple hues with the election of a Democratic Governor to pair with a solidly Republican state house. The reaction to Trump’s presidency, though, has largely followed the continuing cultural divisions.
Starkly different sentiments can be heard in metropolitan areas compared to rural areas. Many organized marches have filled and continue to fill the streets of Raleigh and Charlotte decrying the new president and his policies. Elsewhere, rural North Carolinians are enjoying the changes taking place in Washington and still avidly support their president.
Chris Cronin is Associate Professor of Political Science at Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina.