Voter Interviews

In the fall 2013 semester, students in a reporting class at the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication interviewed voters who had registered in North Carolina after having moved from another state. These interviews, which appear below, offer insights into new North Carolina voters’ motivations and attitudes, as a supplement to the data on the extent of in-migration onto the state’s voter rolls. Data on in-migrants can be found here.

Student from Tennessee votes conservative

By John Caison


Wilson Orr says he’s pleased with the direction North Carolina is going.

“Being from Tennessee, I’ve grown up in a very conservative culture,” he said.

Orr moved to North Carolina in 2010 when his undergraduate studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill began. The 21-year-old senior says he’s always identified as a Republican. Orr has previous ties to North Carolina as his mother, Caroline Orr, grew up in Raleigh and went to UNC.

Orr voted straight ticket Republican in the 2012 election.

He says he pays closer attention to national politics than he does state and local politics and cited the economy as the most important political issue to him. Orr doesn’t approve of the job President Obama has done, saying he doesn’t think Obama has stimulated growth.

Orr says he approves of the job Governor Pat McCrory has done since taking over in January but thinks there’s room for improvement.

“I’d like to see him be a stronger leader,” he said.

Orr’s status as a North Carolina voter will be short lived. The business major has accepted an investment-banking job at JP Morgan in New York.

“I guess only voting in one election I haven’t had too much of an effect on North Carolina politics, but my vote in New York will probably be of less consequence,” he said.

He said he’s not sure of his long-term plans but said he could easily see himself moving back to North Carolina after a couple years in New York.

New Yorker finds his liberal side on a southern campus

By Megan Hahn

Chris Ostrander, a twenty-four-year-old Macy’s sales manager, grew up in upper New York, and eventually re-located to North Carolina. Ostrander spent much of his childhood moving; first from New York to Philadelphia, and then finally to Cary, North Carolina where his family settled.  It was in North Carolina that Ostrander reached voting age and where he developed an active interest in politics.

“To the north of the Mason-Dixon,” he said, “the South is all one giant farmland. We assumed the cotton gin was still a widely used contraption, that trucks with bald eagle decals were the primary mode of transportation, and time as we know it would stop long enough for all to enjoy their NASCAR races,”

“In the first month of my freshman year of high school, I was able to validate several of the Southern assumptions my fellow Yankees had subliminally instilled in me. I was dragged to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, where the 40-foot Confederate flag dropped at the encore scared me enough to ask God, if I’d make it out alive.”

Four years later, Ostrander enrolled in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  It was during his time in college that Ostrander became politically aware.

“Like so many others, a voting registration rep attacked me with a clipboard after my first step onto UNC campus,” he said. “I registered Democrat, because both of my parents did,”

Ostrander said that he knew there would be no better place to explore his political beliefs than the UNC campus, but found himself shocked by what he saw as the bias in the campus Greek community.

“On the one hand, I was surrounded by passionate bright young minds and there were persuasive groups for every cause imaginable,” he said. “On the other hand, I was a part of a fraternity, as conservative and traditional as the stereotype dictates. I learned the seriousness of politics as I witnessed the extremes of liberal and conservative thought on a daily basis, and I remained largely uncommitted for fear of saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. It astonished me that in a place of such creativity and understanding, so few people were able to consider both sides of important issues before choosing a stance.”

Now, a few years after graduation, Ostrander has a clearer view of his political opinions. “As I stand on the other side of college now, I can say that I am socially liberal – but not to the extremes the media and cause-groups with megaphones portray,” he said. “I would not say I’m a Democrat because I don’t agree with the contest politics seem to be participating in at the national level. My observations have helped me conclude that Democrats and Republican politicians on the national stage act with long-term guarantee of political supremacy in mind, rather than act in the best interests of their constituents.”

Ostrander is a registered voter in North Carolina and has cast his ballot in the state on a few occasions.  He voted as a Democrat in the 2008 presidential election but didn’t vote during the 2012 presidential election.

“I voted in 2008, because I thought the idea of the first African American president was overdue and would mean more for the country than agendas stalled by years of gridlock,” said Ostrander. “I did not vote in the 2012 election because I didn’t truly believe in the message of either nominee. For this reason, I refuse to feel guilty for not voting. I hope the next election will give me a reason to vote.”

Republican voter unhappy with current GOP administration

By Katherine Browning 

Grace Trilling, 25, moved from Washington, D.C. to Wake County January 2013 when she accepted a new job as the Account Executive for Capstrat, a strategic communications firm. Trilling, a registered Republican, had expected Gov. Pat McCrory and the Republican-controlled legislature to align more with her conservative upbringing, but since registering to vote in North Carolina, she has questioned the tactics of the GOP governor.

“I’m pretty loyal to my party, so I would have to say that I would vote Republican.” Trilling said. “But I’m not happy with the current administration, so we will have to see how the next election goes.”

In November, McCrory became the first North Carolina Republican elected governor in 24 years. Trilling noted that in April, two 24-year-olds working for the McCrory administration received raises that pushed their salaries to more than $85,000.

“There is no way, in a government job, that 24-year-olds should be getting that much money,” Trilling said. “It’s state money.”

Trilling grew up in Baltimore, MD, in a conservative family. Maryland is one of the most Democratic states in the nation. Trilling moved to North Carolina when she attended Elon University in 2006. After graduating in 2010 with a communications degree, she moved to Washington, D.C. for a job at Powell Tate Strategic Communications and Public Affairs. During her time in Washington, D.C., Trilling had a larger group of liberal friends than she currently does in Raleigh.

“In Raleigh, I would say that most of my friend group would have to be more Republicans or more of a moderate-conservative,” Trilling said. “I had more liberal friends in D.C. than I do in North Carolina.”

Elon professor speaks out on political polarization

By Holly Bouldin

Caroline Ketcham_ Holly Bouldin

Caroline Ketcham, an associate professor of exercise science at Elon University, moved to North Carolina from Texas in 2006.  Ketcham, who was born in California, votes Democratic, but said she believes every voter should listen to arguments from both sides.

Ketcham, 38, moved to Orange County after Elon University offered her a job seven years ago. She previously worked as an assistant professor at Texas A&M University, but decided to search for a new job to cut down on long commutes to work. Ketcham, her husband and two children now live in Mebane.

Ketcham said she voted for President Obama in 2008 and in 2012 because she believes in his policies – including the Affordable Care Act.

“I think we’re becoming more polarized politically,” she said. “People tend to listen to what they agree with, and some of the claims against Obama are totally ill-founded.”

The exercise science professor said people do not want to see insurance premiums rise, so they oppose the plan without understanding other factors. Ketcham said people tend to vote according to family background unless they take time to learn the issues and cultivate opinions.

“I think we’re in a society where you get sound bites – and big policy is much more complex than that,” she said.  “When you start to talk about it deeper, people open up. They get the sense that people see the world differently.”

Ketcham said she listens to National Public Radio, reads news from CNN online and watches ABC News each morning. NPR allows listeners to hear both sides of an issue and is not as slanted as other sources of information, she said.

“Maybe I’m not seeing it right, but that’s how I understand the other side,” she said. “NPR is pretty informed. They talk to both sides. They don’t yell at them, they listen to their point.”

The professor said she fears North Carolinians have become more conservative since Obama became president in 2008. Ketcham encourages Elon students to read news sources from both sides and said finding middle ground is essential to the state and the nation’s political health.

“I think the majority of people think exactly the same with some small differences,” she said. “We don’t talk about that middle ground because we’ve identified ourselves as one of the other, and we can’t look at the similarities.”

Floridian feels there is little debate in North Carolina

By Evan Badler

Christopher Allen_Evan Badler

After living in Oviedo, Florida for 17 years, Christopher Allen was a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at the time of this interview.  Allen, a registered independent, holds very mixed views about the state of North Carolina politics.

“The Triangle is one of a few places people can have genuine debate in North Carolina,” Allen said. “I think those places have more young and educated people than other parts of the state.”

Allen, 21, disapproved of the job Republican Governor Pat McCrory had done in his early weeks in office.  Allen, who described himself as “a form of liberal” and is bisexual, said the Republican majority in the state legislature concerns him.

“I just don’t think there is any way to keep [the Republicans] in check,” Allen said.

When asked about President Obama, he said he neither approved nor disapproved, and added that he doesn’t think the president has as much direct control as the general public believes.

“I don’t think the President has the power to adequately address all the issues he campaigns on,” Allen said. “But he’s really good at the song and dance that is the presidency.”

In the 2012 presidential election, Allen voted for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson.  Allen said it is easy to become frustrated by American politics because of the two-party system.

“As a Libertarian, I feel like I . . . and my peers . . . are roundly ignored in a political system ruled by money,” Allen said.

Allen gets most of his news online, primarily from BBC News.  He also frequents online news aggregators, including Reddit and the Drudge Report.

“I only get my news online,” Allen said. “When I’m going to look at news, it’s for a specific issue . . . so I go to the internet and find related articles that way.”

Spanish professor votes Democratic for Hispanics

By Holly Bouldin

Ruth Harper, the daughter of an U.S. Air Force pilot, grew up all over the world. She was born in the Philippines and lived in 13 different places before she turned 18 years old.

Harper, 55, moved to Chapel Hill 14 years ago from Boston, Massachusetts. Her current job teaching Spanish at Alamance Community College and her involvement with Hispanic churches have greatly influenced her political views. Harper, who is white, is a Democrat.

“A lot of times when I look at the Republican Party, I think that they’re not really working for the people,” she said. “I’ve been with the Hispanics these last few years, and I’ve listened to them talk about what they want.”

Harper attended Mississippi State University, where she earned a master’s degree in Spanish. She and her husband, Rick, an aerospace engineer and computer scientist, moved to Boston after college. The couple relocated to Chapel Hill after Rick took a job at IBM in Raleigh in 1999.

“For us, it was coming back to the South – but not to anything like Mississippi,” Harper said. “Mississippi is one of the most backward states I’ve ever seen. There’s still a lot of racial tension.”

Tension still exists in North Carolina between whites and Hispanics, Harper explained. Many North Carolinians blame Hispanics for taking away their jobs and do not see the positives of the fast-growing minority, she said.

“They take such pride in what they do,” Harper said. “They’re truly some of happiest people I’ve ever met because they have really deep religious beliefs and family values.”

Harper helped open El Ministerio Latino, a Hispanic branch of Newhope Church in Durham, and plans to help form a second church in Chapel Hill within the next couple of years.

“The whole group of Hispanics I’ve been working with are really for Obama,” she said. “It’s the immigration issues and what he’s trying to do to help them.”

Although President Obama discussed creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants during his 2012 campaign for re-election, Harper said she expected the president to make changes faster than he has.

“I realize he was left with a big mess,” she said. “I’m not as happy with him as I was initially, but I still want to give him a chance.”

Stay at home mom votes Republican

By Kayla Gibson

RALEIGH, N.C.—Almost a year after the Republican Party swept into power in North Carolina state government, Republican Nancy Key, 42, still wasn’t happy.

She is a stay-at-home mom with two sons, one in middle school and the other in elementary school.  She moved to Raleigh in 2006 from New Jersey. In 2012 she voted a straight Republican ticket.

Key said she wanted more change in North Carolina now that the Republican Party controls both the legislature and the governorship.  Although she said that she does not follow state politics as much as she should, she said the legislature is “not quite up to par.”  In addition, she said she expected a lot more from Governor Pat McCrory.

“I’d like for him to not compromise so much in liberal directions,” Key said.

As for the national government, Key said she was displeased with how Congress and President Obama are running the nation, especially after the government shutdown.

“It almost seemed like open season for some politicians to have little temper tantrums,” Key said.

Key said she almost wished that the federal government stayed shut down to prove a point that raising the debt ceiling and the Affordable Care Act weren’t right.

“It just seems to me that none of the parties are sticking to their guns anymore about ‘This is right,’” Key said.  “Everybody just keeps saying compromise.  Well, when something’s wrong, don’t.”

Personal Trainer severs Republican ties

By Zach PotterTrey Sartin

Trey Sartin moved to Durham, North Carolina, from Indianapolis, Indiana, in 2007. Since then, he has witnessed a shift in his own political ideology.

Sartin, 38, was a registered Republican in Indiana. But, in 2004, he voted for Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

“I was a Republican,” he said. “But I voted for Kerry because of what I thought was an unwarranted war in Iraq that was, in my opinion, illegal.”

Sartin retained his affiliation with the Republican Party until he moved to North Carolina, at which point he became an Independent.

Sartin, 6’8” and 284 pounds, is a partner and personal trainer at Maitland’s Method, a resistance training facility in Durham. In Indiana, he played offensive lineman for the Indianapolis Colts in 1998 and 1999, and then worked as a program manager for the Barium Springs Home for Children.

His background in social work prompts Sartin to pay close attention to child education and development.

“My experience,” Sartin said, “is that, systematically, especially as it relates to education, North Carolina is more Republican.”

Though he is dissatisfied with Republicans in government, Sartin also feels that President Obama has not lived up to some of his promises.

“I’ve been disappointed that he’s not been able to develop consensus in regard to the debt ceiling,” Sartin said. “I also feel like some of the promises in regard to our privacy rights that were made during his campaign haven’t been followed through with.”

Specifically, Sartin points to the revelations of NSA spying brought to light by former analyst Edward Snowden, saying he believes that Obama handled the situation incorrectly.

Sartin and his wife, Kelli, met in Durham and have been married two years.

While he loves the South, Sartin notes that many political issues, such as education and abortion, are more divisive than in Indiana.

“Everything here just seems so much more polarized,” he said.

Small business owner avoids party affiliation

By Zach Potter

Summer Bicknell

Summer Bicknell moved to Durham in 2005 from Tennessee, where she was born and raised. Before reaching the Tar Heel state, Bicknell spent six months in Mexico, where she voted absentee in the 2004 election.

“It was an interesting experience watching our democratic process from another country,” she said.

Bicknell, 46, voted for John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, in that election, though she had been a registered Republican in Tennessee and had voted for Republican President George Bush in 2000.

“I supported the invasion of Afghanistan,” she said. “But I did not support the invasion of Iraq. I made a point of not repeating the same mistake in 2004.”

Fed up with partisan politics, Bicknell changed her registration to unaffiliated when she moved to Durham. She has an MBA from Vanderbilt and is the owner and operator of Locopops, an ice pop shop in town.

In 2012, she voted for President Obama, a Democrat, and Walter Dalton, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. While she still supports Obama, she recognizes the turmoil American politics faces today.

“Unfortunately, I feel like the things that I like about Barack Obama are not well-received in today’s political climate,” she said.

Bicknell said Obama is a good negotiator who is willing to compromise and find common ground, but that there is a general lack of interest in compromise, which results in a kind of scorched earth politics.

“There is no one on the other side of the table to talk to,” Bicknell said. “It makes compromise pretty difficult when you’re talking to yourself.”

On the state level, Bicknell regards Republican Governor Pat McCrory as more moderate than the Republican-majority legislature weighted towards the far-right end of the spectrum.

“He is being hijacked by the hardliners,” Bicknell said.

Despite the political shifts happening in the state, Bicknell loves North Carolina. She is active in her community both as a small business owner and a volunteer board member of Seeds, an organization focused on sustainable agriculture.

Bicknell supports a shift to center in North Carolina, but acknowledges the road will be rocky. “I love the color purple,” she said. “But it is a violent mix of red and blue.”

Orange County voter calls for more choices in politics

By Holly BouldinDayla Dawson_Holly Bouldin

Dayla Dawson moved to North Carolina when she was 15 years old. The Kentucky native, now 24, is dissatisfied with the lack of options in American politics and said she votes for the candidate she thinks is the “lesser of the two evils.”

Dawson moved with her parents to North Carolina after they discovered better job opportunities in the Triangle area. She attended UNC-Chapel Hill and received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2011. At the time of this interview, Dawson worked at the State Employees Credit Union as a bank teller in Carrboro while her husband, Roy, completed his law degree at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Dawson studied European politics as an undergraduate and said she liked the variety of political parties and candidates European countries offer to voters. Although she said 15 to 20 political parties would be too many for America, Dawson said she wishes voters had more options.

“Having two parties is really hard because you’re not going to agree 100 percent with either side,” she said.  “You’re not going to fit into that little box that they want you to fit in.”

While Orange County went Democratic in the 2012 election, Dawson said she and her husband cast votes for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Dawson voted for Romney because she did not want to see President Obama return to office.

“There are a lot of things I believe that I don’t think he falls in line with,” Dawson said of the president. “I don’t agree with his views on abortion or health care.”

Dawson said political polarization in the country has isolated many voters. She said she tries to avoid watching die-hard Republicans and Democrats debate on television.

“I try to stay local most of the time,” she said. “But I don’t think I’ve found a news source that is completely unbiased yet. I just take every article I read with a grain of salt.”

Dawson said voters do not approve of the job most political leaders are doing because their policies lack flexibility. When Republicans and Democrats cannot agree, the whole country suffers, she said.

“The Affordable Care Act was a split with our country,” Dawson said. “Half of the country agreed with it, half didn’t. That’s what’s causing issues – it’s hard to please everybody.”

Liberal from Miami votes by issue

By Katherine Browning

Michelle Bandklayder_Catherine Browning

Michelle Bandklayder, 21, moved from Miami, FL, to Chapel Hill, in August 2010 for her first year as an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina. During her first two years at UNC-Chapel Hill, Bandklayder remained registered to vote in Miami, but before the 2012 presidential election, she decided to register in North Carolina.

“I chose North Carolina because the Florida system seems so freaking corrupt,” Bandklayder said. “I personally know three people who tried to vote this year and never got their ballots in the mail and were ignored when they tried to complain.”

In the 2012 presidential election between Republican nominee Mitt Romney and Democratic nominee Barack Obama, North Carolina and Florida were among the swing states. “I’d rather have my voice heard in Florida since it swings a lot, but at least my voice actually gets heard here in North Carolina,” Bandklayder said.

In the 2012 election, Romney won North Carolina with 50.6 percent of the votes, and President Obama won Florida with 50 percent of the vote.

Bandklayder registered as a Democrat in North Carolina, but she says that she tends to be more socially liberal and fiscally conservative.

“I vote more based on social issues,” Bandklayder said.

Bandklayder is both Caucasian and Hispanic, so for her, immigration issues are a pressing topic. Her mother is from Puerto Padre, Cuba. She is also invested in abortion and birth control issues as well as women’s rights.

Although she does not follow North Carolina politics closely, she has found Gov. Pat McCrory’s stance on issues “too conservative and close-minded,” she says. She did not vote for him in the 2012 election.

Mississippi native maintains political ideas in North Carolina

By Nikki Mandell

Although Brooke Perry has led a transient life, moving from the South to the North and back again, finally settling in Winston Salem, her political views have remained steadfast.

Perry, 52, now a freelance writer grew up in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and like many of her childhood friends, adopted the conservative beliefs of her parents.

“Going to college at Tulane in New Orleans was really my first encounter with people from the North,” Perry said.  “There’s a huge percentage of what we called Yankees there.”

Encountering opposition to her personal views in college, Perry remained a Republican.  However, she did not register to vote then nor when she moved into Democrat territory to follow her husband to New York, and soon after, New Jersey.

“After New York I was pretty aware of the range of options politically,” Perry said.

“But I have only really gotten interested in politics within this last year because I think everything that’s going on is kind of nuts.”

Perry also moved to Winston Salem last year to be closer to her children who go to colleges in North Carolina.  Perry voted for Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.  Since then, she has grown wary with sectors of her chosen party, especially following the government shutdown.

“It just seems like the Tea Party Republicans have a lot of dirty tricks up their sleeves,” Perry said, quick to point out afterwards that she is not a fan of President Obama either.

Her dismay with the government acted as a spark, igniting her political curiosity after a lifetime of ambivalence.   The move to Winston Salem made a difference.

“Moving here was really kind of fun, it was the first time I’ve ever lived in a swing state,” Perry said. “We went downtown for dinner one night during the election and there was a big CNN bus there, and they were doing man-on-the-street interviews, and I’d never really experienced that before.”

Although Perry says she’s set in her Republican views at this point in her life, she acknowledges being more open to Democratic candidates.  “I like to think I’m a little more open-minded now,” said Perry.

“I’m not sure whether that’s come from moving around so much and meeting so many people with different viewpoints, or if it’s just a maturity thing that comes with growing up and making your own opinion.”

Independent voter from New Jersey follows social issues in NC politics

By Catherine Browning

Julia Woods_Catherine Browning (1)

Julia Woods is not impressed with North Carolina politics, but when she registered to vote in North Carolina in 2012, she was not focused on the governor’s race. Instead, she wanted her vote to matter in the 2012 presidential election.

“I changed my registration from New Jersey to North Carolina because North Carolina is more of a swing state than New Jersey,” Woods said. “I wanted my vote to count as much as possible.”

In the 2012 presidential election, North Carolina was a swing state that ultimately Republican nominee Mitt Romney won by a slim margin. President Obama won New Jersey.

In North Carolina, Woods is registered as an independent, but she agrees with the Democratic Party’s stance on issues more than the Republican Party.

Woods, 21, moved from Summit, N.J. to Chapel Hill in 2010, when she began her first year as an undergraduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill. Although she lives in North Carolina now, she says she does not follow either Republican Gov. Pat McCrory or North Carolina politics closely.

“I don’t know enough about McCrory to really comment on his politics, but I’m not impressed with what I’ve seen and heard,” she said.

Woods is passionate about both abortion rights and gay rights.

On May 8, 2012, North Carolina voters approved Amendment One, a provision in the state constitution that makes same-sex marriages or civil unions unconstitutional. In July, McCrory signed into law legislation that limits abortion access throughout North Carolina. The law limits abortion coverage in insurance plans and requires a doctor to be present for the entire procedure.

“I’m passionate about abortion rights and gay rights because I don’t believe that the government should have a say and regulate such personal issues,” Woods said. “People have a right to do what they want with their bodies and their lifestyle.”

Woods is not optimistic about North Carolina politics and at the time of the interview was talking about moving to another state after graduation.

Small business owner disappointed in Republican state leadership 

By Nikki Mandell

Carriel Nipp is a white, male, small business owner born and raised in the heart of Texas.  He’s also a Democrat, and has been for more than half of his 51 years of life.

Nipp was born in Midland, Texas, to a family that shared the staunch Republicanism of the majority of the neighbors, views that Nipp shared himself until leaving for college at Texas Tech University.

“Even though I was still in Texas, when I went to college I began to have a wider viewpoint of the world and became a Democrat,” said Nipp.  “I started interacting with more people with various viewpoints when I got to college instead of just hanging out with a few friends from high school.  I guess you could say I didn’t agree that everyone who wasn’t a Republican was looking for a handout.”

After 39 years of going against the grain of his friends’ and colleagues’ political views, Nipp moved to Raleigh for a business opportunity that has led him to his current job as the manager of a Sonic franchise.

“I am a self-employed, small business owner,” said Nipp.

“I would fit more of the Republican mold, but in my experience over the years, every time everyone is doing better I do better.”

Armed with this simple adage and a history of dissent, Nipp was excited to move to a place where he felt his vote would count more.

In the 2012 presidential election, Nipp was a part of the 48% of North Carolina voters who chose President Obama.  Republican candidate Mitt Romney carried the state with 50% of the vote.  This is in comparison to Texas, where 41% voted for Obama, and 57% voted for Romney.

“In Midland when I was growing up, it was going to go Republican no matter what, especially with all the gerrymandering,” said Nipp.  “But since moving to Raleigh my political activism has really increased, and I think it comes from knowing there are a lot more swing voters.  I feel like my vote counts more.”

Nipp, who votes in local, state, and national elections, said, “I don’t think the Democrats have a lot of pull right now, and I’m disappointed in the way the Republicans have taken advantage of this control.  But something I like about this state is that from my short time here it appears that when people overstep their boundaries, they get voted out.”

Republican turned Democrat has doubts on state and national politics

By Evan Badler

Gary Kirk_Evan Badler

Gary Kirk was a Republican while living in Princeton, West Virginia for most of his adult life. Now a Chapel Hill resident, Kirk is registered as a Democrat, but doesn’t identify as a strong supporter of either party.

“I don’t believe in a party; I believe in voting for who’s right for the job,” Kirk said. “I picked a party just to be involved in elections.”

Kirk, a divorced father of two, moved to North Carolina in 2012 to be closer to his  children. He said he and his children’s mother prefer the North Carolina school system over the schools in West Virginia.

After attending Bluefield State College in West Virginia for one year, Kirk, now a broadcast engineer, decided to leave school and work full-time. With his connections to people in television news, Kirk says he gets most of his news from articles posted on social media sites.  He exclusively gets his news online, and said he had not “seen an actual newspaper in years.”

Kirk calls politics a “necessary evil,” and he is especially frustrated by recent North Carolina politics. He feels “embarrassed by the state on a national level,” and that “it seems like everything you hear in the news about North Carolina is ridiculous.”  Kirk said he has heard a lot of criticism of Republican Governor Pat McCrory.  However, Kirk added that he did not think he was well-informed enough to either approve or disapprove of the governor.

He holds a similar feeling toward President Obama.  Though he voted for Obama in 2012, Kirk says he “leans toward disapproval,” but does not follow the federal government closely enough to make a harder judgment.

Taylor generally disappointed in direction of politics

By Simone Duval

Shreya Tailor, a 29-year-old physical therapist from South Carolina who has Indian heritage, moved to Chapel Hill last year to be with her fiancé. Tailor said she would take her husband-to-be’s opinion on all things political.

Tailor is a registered voter, but did not vote in the past election. Although she isn’t officially affiliated with any political party, Tailor said she did ascribe to the ideology of the Democratic Party.

Although Tailor voted for President Obama in his first election in 2008, she said she did so because “he was the lesser of the two evils.” She is against Obamacare, the president’s plan for universal health coverage for all Americans.

“I’m not for Obamacare, it directly affects my profession,” she said. “When I voted for Obama as the lesser of two evils, he was just proposing it, it was not going to be in effect.”

“I’m not much for politics,” she said. “I’m updated somewhat nationally, I just don’t have an opinion on the local.”

But if one thing is certain, it’s that Tailor considers herself a Southerner.

“I’ve lived here for so long, and my parents are still in South Carolina,” she said. “It’s home.”

South Carolina conservative critiques political polarization 

By Evan Badler

Anna Faison_Evan Badler

Anna Faison moved from Aiken, S.C. to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill two and a half years ago, and she isn’t fond of the current state of American politics.

Faison, 20, an American studies major, described herself as a “weak Democrat.” She holds no loyalty to the party itself.  She said that the recent actions of both the Democratic and Republican parties tend to make her uneasy.

“There’s a lot of polarization,” she said. “I don’t think legislators are interested in compromise. People are so stubborn in the views that they hold.”

Lack of trust in the two parties led her to register to vote as an independent. She does her best to stay informed of both state and national political news, including her specific interest in the politics of the American South.  Her frequent online reading of The New York Times and The News & Observer has made Faison concerned about the current direction of North Carolina politics.

“I’m kind of used to things being crazy,” Faison said, “but it seems like there’s been a very dramatic shift toward conservatism.”

Though she voted for President Obama in the 2012 presidential election, Faison said she is specifically disappointed by the level of NSA surveillance on both a domestic and international scale.

She disapproves of the job Republican Governor Pat McCrory had done in office last year, pointed to the policies concerning voter ID-laws and education funding as her main reasons.

“I don’t agree with [McCrory’s] politics because he hasn’t fulfilled his promises to constituents,” Faison said.  She described the new voter-ID laws as “very clear discrimination” against minorities and students, among others.

Faison is also concerned about the way North Carolina legislators have approached education, especially teacher pay.

“North Carolina was progressive regarding education, but now it’s like all that never happened,” Faison said

Couple leans strengthens democratic ties in North Carolina 

By Simone Duval 

For Durham resident Mark Lewis, politics in North Carolina demonstrate the same rural-versus-urban dynamic as in Florida.

Meanwhile, Mark’s wife Julie Lewis sees North Carolina politics in a different light.

Mark, 56, is originally from Queens, N.Y., and Julie, 51, is from Colorado Springs, Colo. The couple now lives in Durham, a move they made in 2011, after they discovered lower priced housing and appealing neighborhoods. Both work in sales.

Julie originally wanted to make the move up north to Chapel Hill from Hollywood, Fla., in 1995 in search of a better educational environment for their son, Max.

“Really, the only reason we moved was that we didn’t want to raise Max in that environment,” said Julie. “Down there everybody’s driving Ferraris, 16-year-olds are getting cosmetic surgery, and that’s not the environment for Max.”

The Lewises are happy with the educational opportunities in North Carolina. Still, Mark found a familiar political environment to that of Florida.

“We’ve had rural people who think very differently about things than those in the urban centers,” he said.

Julie, on the other hand, said she preferred the politics of her new state to those from back home.

“There were some really unethical people [in Florida],” she said. “I don’t think this government is unethical, and maybe they’re not making some of the best choices given the population here, but I prefer North Carolina.”

Julie is now affiliated with the Democratic Party in North Carolina, but growing up Catholic in Colorado Springs, she followed her family’s lead in support of the Republican Party. Julie’s father, Harvey Vieth, directed Ronald Reagans’ presidential campaign in Colorado, and after Reagan’s win in 1980, Vieth was appointed director of a subcommittee of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“I grew up with Republican undertones, it kind of happens naturally that you follow your parents lead when you grow up,” Julie said. “At six years old I was going door-to-door with a floppy ‘Nixon Now’ hat and handing out buttons with my other siblings.”

But now, Julie said, she votes “straight Democratic all the way.”

She voted for President Obama in the 2012 election, as well as for Walter Dalton, the Democratic candidate for governor.

Mark also voted for Obama in 2012. Though Mark was a registered Independent in Florida, he now is affiliated with the Democratic Party in North Carolina.

Mark characterized the state’s policymaking as a “politics of fear.”

“It’s a combination of needing someone to blame,” Mark said, “and I think that there’s a racial aspect to it. When you combine that with the general ignorance of policy by the American public, it’s kind of easy to stoke up the flames of fear.”

“We have been living here many years, and I really feel like things have changed dramatically,” Julie said. “Shutting down the abortion clinics, not even being able to feed the homeless, I just don’t like it.”

Unaffiliated Voter votes Republican 

By Kayla Gibson

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—Raleigh resident Amanda Young doesn’t like to follow politics.

However, in the 2012 election, Young, 42, decided to vote a straight Republican ticket.  Although she is unaffiliated, she said that she made the choice to vote Republican because she saw the party as “the lesser of two evils” and that the GOP tends to follow more of her beliefs.

“Being a born-again Christian,” Young said,  “I tend to agree more with some of the Republican stuff than the Democrat, but certainly not an all-encompassing statement.”

Young said that for the most part she doesn’t pay attention to politics.  She said her frustration with politics was reinforced by the government shutdown, annoyed that political leaders couldn’t get past their differences.

Although Young didn’t have an opinion on North Carolina politics, she said that she loves living in Raleigh.  She and her family moved to North Carolina in July of 2006 from San Diego.

“We relocated just to make a change in our lives,” Young said, “to go to a smaller town, to experience the East Coast, and four seasons, and we specifically chose Raleigh for RTP and the job market.”

Young said she also enjoys living in Raleigh because of the educated adult population, the three big universities, and the strong economy.

Relocated couple says political coverage is hard to find in North Carolina

By Holly Bouldin 

Alan and Anne Lewis moved to North Carolina in 2006 from Prospect Heights, Illinois. Anne, a former music teacher, said she finds it more difficult to follow politics in North Carolina than in Illinois.

The couple, both conservative Republicans, moved to Elon, responding to a high demand for special education teachers in the area. Alan, 51, who is white and grew up in Ohio, teaches at Northeast Guilford High School in McLeansville.

Anne, a white 53-year-old New Jersey native, she said felt more informed about state politics in other states she has lived in.

“When I was in Illinois, I felt like it was a lot easier to stay informed,” she said. “I feel like in a lot of ways I only know the tip of the iceberg of North Carolina politics.”

Although Anne said political coverage in the state rose during disclosure of former Democratic U.S. Senator John Edward’s extramarital affair with Rielle Hunter in 2007, she said North Carolinians must diligently search for political news or risk being ill-informed on who is leading the state – and the country.

“Local news is very entertaining, but I don’t feel like I learn anything from it,” she said. “I just wish there was some really great political person on the radio.”

Anne and Alan voted for Democrat Jimmy Carter in the 1976 presidential election during their college years at Ohio University. The couple said they did not take a great interest in politics as undergraduates.

Alan relied on family and professors’ opinions when he voted for Carter. After college he said he learned more about politics and cultivated his own opinions.

“What happened was the older I got, the more conservative I got – just naturally,” Alan said. “I thought for myself instead of just following what my parents believed and what my professors believed.”

Anne said many Americans do not know as much about candidates as they should.

“As I got older I realized there was a lot more to it than just what they say,” Anne said. “You have to look at what they do and what their record is.”

The couple did not vote for Democrat Barack Obama in the 2008 or 2012 election. The couple lived in Illinois during his career as a state legislator and a U.S. senator. Anne did not agree with his views on social issues such as abortion.

In 2001 Obama voted against Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act, which protects babies who survived after failed attempts at abortion. President George W. Bush and Congress passed a national version of the legislation in March 2002.

“Obama believes he’s this really, really good president and people are going to look at him favorably,” Alan said. “The low approval ratings are starting to show that’s not necessarily the case. People are starting to see the light that a lot of the things that he promised just haven’t happened.”

Midwesterner finds more polarization in North Carolinakarenharing

By John Caison

Karen Haring and her husband Brett moved to Raleigh, NC three years ago from Kansas City, Kansas. Both identify as conservative Republicans.

Karen, who was born in the Midwest and lived most of her life there, says she’s always identified as Republican.

Brett, on the other hand, was raised a Democrat but changed party affiliation in graduate school during the Reagan years.

The couple moved to Raleigh when Pfizer bought the company Brett worked for in Kansas, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. A lawyer, Brett now works for Zoetis, an animal health company and spinoff from Pfizer.

The couple plans to stay in North Carolina but Karen was quick to point out they also hoped to stay in Kansas before Brett’s career necessitated the move.

Contrasting the political climates of North Carolina and Kansas, Karen described the Midwest as much more conservative overall.

“North Carolina can be both conservative and liberal depending on where you live,” she said. “We have friends in Asheville and they’re Obama lovers. In Kansas you have a lot more farmers and rural areas, it was much more conservative.”

Karen voted straight ticket Republican in 2012 and described President Obama’s job performance as “horrible.”

“I don’t like what’s happening with health care, the economy,” she said. “It’s a mess.”

Karen says she approves of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s job performance and plans to vote for him again if he runs.