Sep 15, 2022 - News

Abortion is top of mind for some North Carolina's Trump-Biden voters

Illustration of a trampoline in the shape of North Carolina.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Protecting abortion rights was the top issue for North Carolina's swing voters who participated in our latest Engagious/Schlesinger focus group.

  • Getting inflation under control was a close second.

Yes, but: Whether their feelings on those issues will drive them to the polls in the November midterms was less clear, especially considering many participants couldn’t name North Carolina's U.S. Senate candidates, Cheri Beasley and Rep. Ted Budd.

Why it matters: Democrats hope that falling gas prices and voters energized by abortion restrictions will help them win congressional races in North Carolina and several other states in a year that's expected to be more favorable to Republicans.

  • “Several North Carolina swing voters indicated that when the Court overturned Roe, it inserted a major new consideration into their political decision-making,” said Rich Thau, president of Engagious, who moderated the focus groups. “What remains to be seen is whether all their talk will be backed up by action at the ballot box.”

Driving the news: About halfway between the U.S. Supreme Court's June decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and the November midterms, Axios partner Engagious/Schlesinger conducted two online focus groups on Monday with 11 North Carolinians who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 then Joe Biden in 2020.

  • They ranged in location from Carteret County on the coast to Davie County near the foothills.
  • Eight participants are registered unaffiliated — two are Democrats, one is a Republican.

Of note: While a focus group is not a statistically significant sample like a poll, the responses show how some voters are thinking and talking about current events. Schlesinger recruits from a national panel of people willing to participate in qualitative research.

  • The participants also gave a snapshot of unaffiliated North Carolina voters, who now outnumber both Democrats and Republicans in the state.

The big picture: Most were passionate about abortion and gas prices, while offering mixed views on gun control and student loan forgiveness, and ambivalence over the state of healthcare in N.C.

  • "I was registered as a Republican and I'm switching to Democrat. It's something that has upset me greatly," Alana P. of Carteret County said of the Supreme Court’s June decision in the abortion case.

Voter Russell T. of Forsyth County listed protecting a woman's right to abortion as his top issue, then protecting the Second Amendment and fighting for racial equity. He said he believes the Republican Party has historically been about keeping "less government in your life," but that changed after the Dobbs ruling.

Reality check: Few participants were engaged in North Carolina's U.S. Senate race. In fact:

  • 8 of 11 saw a picture of Democratic candidate Cheri Beasley and said they could name her, while only 4 of 11 said they could name Republican Rep. Ted Budd after seeing a picture of him.
  • 8 of the 11 said they were very likely to vote in the midterms.
  • 0 said they'd vote for Budd.
  • Also, 0 of 11 could name the person Beasley and Budd are vying to replace, Sen. Richard Burr, who's served as one of this state's two U.S. Senators for nearly 18 years.

Between the lines: Unlike in recent focus groups in Florida and Wisconsin, none of the North Carolina swing voters said they regretted voting for Biden. Most said Biden lost their support early in the presidency but has gained some of it back in the past few months.

  • "We're starting to see what he promised us, a little bit at least," participant Kayla L. from Davie County said.

When asked if their opinions on Biden would sway their vote in the Senate race, nobody said yes. But when asked if their opinions on former President Trump would sway their vote in the Senate race, however, several said yes.

  • Kayla L. said she saw that Trump was backing Budd: "I wouldn't vote for him just because of that."
  • Alana P. from Carteret County said she's still mad about Trump's pass-through visit to eastern N.C. after Hurricane Florence in 2018. "He didn't care and didn't want to help us at all. … But I also don’t like Budd for his slander. I think it should be an honest campaign."
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