Published: Jun 08, 2012 05:34 PM
Modified: Jun 08, 2012 05:35 PM
For proof that support of same-sex marriage is regional – not partisan – look no further than Wake County.
Amendment One election results reveal a divide between urban and rural communities rather than traditionally Republican and Democratic regions.
The North Carolina Democratic party opposed the amendment passed last month that inks a ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions onto the NC constitution. The NC GOP endorsed it.
Yet voters in eight of the county’s 12 municipalities broke with the local dominant political party affiliation in voting on the issue, according to an analysis of election results.
Apex, Cary, and Holly Springs – towns with more registered Republicans than Democrats – produced mostly anti-amendment precincts.
But Fuquay-Varina, Garner, Knightdale, Wendell, and Zebulon – towns with more Democrats than Republicans – overwhelmingly supported Amendment One.
Rolesville and Wake Forest (mostly Republican) along with Raleigh and Morrisville (mostly Democrat) voted along party lines.
“It really comes down to cosmopolitan lifestyles versus rural lifestyles,” said Don Schroeder, professor of political science at Campbell University. “People who live there (in more developed areas) are more likely to be young, and more likely to have encountered people from diverse backgrounds.
“So they’re less likely to vote based on their judgements of people’s social orientations.”
An Elon University poll validates Schroeder’s claim that same-sex marriage support is generational. The February poll found that 44.5 percent of people 18 to 34 years old supported full marriage rights for same-sex couples, while 23.7 percent of people 55 and older did.
Also, independents make up a third of the voting population in Apex, Cary and Holly Springs.
There’s a large population of unaffiliated voters in Wake Forest, too. In fact, Wake Forest is similar to Holly Springs in size, political makeup, and proximity to Raleigh.
The difference? A Bible college, says Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones.
“I think we’re as independent-minded as the other towns,” Jones said. “My guess is that (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) makes us a little more conservative.”
Otherwise, experts said two main demographics broke the political lockstep.
In the more rural Wake towns, it was black Democrats.
“Support for the amendment in the faith community was so strong ... I saw lots of African-American Democrats at the polls promoting it,” said Knightdale Mayor Russell Killen. “I think that’s what made the difference here.”
In western Wake, it was “affluent, educated, out-of-state Republicans” who likely voted against their party, according to NC State political expert Andy Taylor.
“Most of Wake has religious roots, so I don’t think that’s the main difference,” Taylor said. “Residents of more developed towns are simply less likely to mix religion and politics.”