Editor’s Note: This post was written by Kevin Degnan, Charlotte Miller, and Fleur Verspagen.
In the 2016 North Carolina Senate Race between Republican incumbent Senator Richard Burr and Democratic challenger Deborah Ross, our predictions are that Burr will get 46% of the votes and Ross will receive 45% of the votes. The other 9% of the votes will go to the third-party candidate or write-in candidates.
Demographically, North Carolina has a mostly white population (72.3%), but with a relatively high black population as well (21.9%). These demographics point to why North Carolina is a more Republican state, as whites tend to vote more for Republicans. North Carolina is made up of three major metropolitan areas with populations over one million. There is the Metralina which consists of Charlotte, Gastonia and Salisbury, with a population of 2,402,623. The Research Triangle includes Raleigh, Durham, Cary and Chapel Hill with a population of 1,749,525. Finally, there is the Piedmont Triad made of Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point with a population of 1,589,200. North Carolina is traditionally a rural agricultural state, with small towns and farms. However, in the past decade, major cities in North Carolina like Charlotte and Raleigh have become huge, growing, fast-paced and populated cosmopolitan areas. As such, these urban centers have brought progressive voters from outside the state, changing the makeup of the NC electorate.
In regards to residents’ opinions on the candidate’s beliefs, many progressives appreciate Ross’s more liberal stances. For example, Ross is an advocate for transgender and LGBTQ rights, as she wants to change the HB2 law in North Carolina that states if you are transgender you still have to use the bathroom of the gender stated on your birth certificate. Ross’s main concerns center around the fact that she is against discrimination and feels that it is bad for North Carolina’s economy and reputation and many of her supporters obviously agree with her. Ross has also won over many women in her campaign because she is an advocate for women’s rights and Planned Parenthood. Ross wants equal pay for both men and women as well and supports gay marriage.
Incumbent Richard Burr is also very well liked. Burr is the senior United States Senator from North Carolina, having served since 2005. A member of the Republican Party, Burr represented North Carolina’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2005. Burr also has seventeen years of experience working for a private business, Carswell Distributing. Burr is a well-liked and experienced businessman that many residents of North Carolina support. On the downside, Burr is one of the most pro-life members of Congress, and traditionally votes against a number of women’s issues, which may hurt him with enough women voters to swing the election to Ross. However, Burr’s pro-life stances endear him to Christians, which could sway the Senate race in his favor because of the high proportion of pro-life evangelical Christians in North Carolina. Burr also voted in favor of prohibiting minors from crossing over state lines for an abortion; he has stuck to his guns the past ten years and held his opinion on abortion.
Overall, we believe that the 2016 Senate Race between Burr and Ross will be a tight race because of the candidates’ beliefs and the fact that Burr was part of the Senate and Congress for years before this race, so he has experience. On the other hand, Ross has the beliefs on the modern issues that progressives in North Carolina’s urban centers want to see more of today. For all of these reasons, we predict a tight race for North Carolina’s Senate seat, with the more experienced Burr slightly edging out Ross by 1%.