I think we're going to have a lot of folks voting Republican but not calling themselves Republicans in North Carolina this year.
In our most recent survey, voters identifying themselves as Independents overwhelmingly went for the Republican candidates- 48-31 for John McCain over Hillary Clinton, 48-33 for McCain over Barack Obama, 54-34 for Elizabeth Dole over Kay Hagan, 50-36 for Pat McCrory over Bev Perdue, and the Republican candidate leads among independents in every other race as well with the exception of Roy Cooper, Elaine Marshall, and Beth Wood.
What's the explanation? I think there are a lot of Republican voters who are pretty disgusted with their party right now. They're going to keep on voting Republican because they certainly don't think the alternative is any better, but they're not calling themselves Republicans.
This is one of the issues with weighting for party. We might have an idea of what the party distribution of voters in the state should be, but how does that account for folks who would have called themselves Republicans four years ago and are continuing to vote that way but not to identify themselves that way?
Pew found earlier this year that there was a 13 point Democratic edge in party id in North Carolina. We've been roughly weighting our NC polls to that party distribution. SurveyUSA, which doesn't weight for party, found an even more Democratic electorate in the state in their last poll- 49 to 33 to 15. If we had not weighted for party in our tracking poll two weeks ago, we would have shown a 17% advantage for Democrats in party identification.
I still haven't made a final decision but because of the uncertainty with party self identification in this most unusual election cycle I am leaning more toward not weighting our general election polls for party the rest of the year.