In the run­up to this fall’s midterm elections, much has been written about the ways a mid­term electorate differs from a Presidential electorate.

However, some data put together by Dr. Michael Bitzer, a professor of politics and Provost at Catawba College in North Carolina, suggests that there is not just a significant difference in WHO votes in mid­term and Presidential elections, but also in WHEN people vote in the two types of elections.

Dr. Bitzer looked at the past five general elections in North Carolina (2004­-2012) and calculated what percentage of the votes were EARLY votes and what percentage were ELECTION DAY votes in four different age groups. That data is listed in the table below

(Note: in the five election years listed, North Carolina had a seventeen day early voting window. Legislation has recently been passed to shorten that window to ten days. The legislation would also change the laws for mail­in absentee votes. That legislation is currently being challenged in court.)

Some key takeaways:

  • In North Carolina, early voting is NOT just for seniors. In both 2008 and 2012, a majority of voters in all four age groups voted early. In 2010, at least one­quarter of voters in all age groups voted early.
  • The 2008 Presidential campaign literally changed the way millions of North Carolinians voted. Twice as many 18­40 year olds voted early in 2008 as compared to 2004, and the increase among voters age 41 and over was close to double as well.
  • In 2012, there was almost NO change in any age group in the percentage of voters who cast their vote early. So, the shift to early voting in 2008 was not just a blip on the radar.
  • In 2010, there was a significant decline from 2008 in the percentage of voters who cast their vote early. That decline was fairly consistent across all four age groups.
  • However, the 2010 early vote percentages did increase from 2006.

Looking ahead to 2014, the data suggests that the early voter percentage would drop off from where it was in 2012 and more closely resemble 2010, but the reduction of the early vote window might potentially mean early percentages that look more like 2006.

Campaigns have long operated under the axiom that the best vote is an early vote, and this data indicates that, at least in North Carolina, voters are shifting that way as well.

Public Opinion Strategies