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Young voters show up in North Carolina

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

North Carolina is one of more than a dozen states holding presidential primary elections today. And one voting group to watch - younger voters. NPR's Elena Moore has spent the last few days in North Carolina speaking with young Americans. Hey, Elena.

ELENA MOORE, BYLINE: Hey there.

CHANG: So tell us why you're focusing on young voters right now. Like, what role could they play in this year's election?

MOORE: Right. Well, big picture, Americans under 43 are expected to make up nearly half the electorate this year, and that's just a ton of power.

CHANG: Yeah.

MOORE: They had comparatively high turnout in 2020 and in recent off-year elections, too. It's also an age group that overwhelmingly votes Democrat but kind of doesn't, like, cheerlead for a party. You know, like, many voters I talked to don't consider themselves Republicans or Democrats. They're just focused on issues. And as for North Carolina, it's just a key swing state this year. It's a key state to watch. In 2020, former President Donald Trump won it by just over a percentage point, so just every vote counts.

CHANG: Every vote counts. All right. Let's start with Republicans because former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, I mean, she pledged to stay in the race through Super Tuesday. That's today. But she is trailing Trump by a lot. So how would you say young voters feel about Haley right now?

MOORE: Well, Haley held two rallies in North Carolina this past weekend. It was kind of part of this multistate tour she's been on. And so I caught her at a stop in Raleigh, and folks were pretty excited to be there. I met 24-year-old Hannah Brown in the crowd. She voted for Trump in 2020, but now she admires Haley as a candidate and wants someone new.

HANNAH BROWN: At this point, I feel like it's just a broken record, and I'm kind of, frankly, like, tired of hearing about it. Just trying to look at politics in a positive light. And I know Nikki, unlike Trump and unlike Biden, she's not tied to big politics, which is really refreshing.

MOORE: According to her campaign, Haley had a turnout of around 1,500 folks in Raleigh. But just an hour and a half away in Greensboro, Trump held a rally as well, where his campaign says there were 10,000 attendees.

CHANG: Wow.

MOORE: And so, you know, he remains the solid front-runner and is just popular among all Republicans, regardless of age.

CHANG: All right. Turn us to Democrats now.

MOORE: Yeah. Well, at the end of last week, I traveled down to Durham with Vice President Kamala Harris, and one of her stops was at a campaign organizing event with around 80-ish younger voters. And Harris has really been a leading voice from the administration on several issues that are really key to young voters, like addressing gun violence and abortion rights. But talking with young people in the area, I heard something I've heard in other states I've traveled to, which is just that no one is excited about this ticket. Here's sisters Alexa and Arianna Dwomoh. This is how they put it.

ALEXA DWOMOH: I can't say that I have come out of the past four years thinking, like, yeah, like, I feel satisfied with the work that I've seen from our leaders and think that they're going to do a really great job.

ARIANNA DWOMOH: I wish we had, you know, some new faces, something else. Just anyone else, please (laughter).

MOORE: You know, both are Democrats who voted for Biden in 2020 and likely will again, but enthusiasm is just low. I mean, we talked. You know, neither of them had voted yet at that point, and they were kind of unsure if they would in this primary.

CHANG: Dang. Well, before we let you go, is there anything else you're watching tonight?

MOORE: You know, I was in Michigan last week, tracking this push to vote uncommitted on the Democratic ballot in response to Biden's handling of the war in Gaza. And that campaign has generated some traction in other states. You know, I heard about it from a handful of young people in North Carolina, but there's no organized campaign, you know, here in the same way. Michigan organizers did point to a couple states like Minnesota, which is voting today, where there is a more dedicated push to do this. So, you know, I'll be watching the count there, but it's unclear what impact they'll have as of now.

CHANG: That is NPR political reporter Elena Moore. Thank you so much, Elena.

MOORE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Elena Moore is a production assistant for the NPR Politics Podcast. She also fills in as a reporter for the NewsDesk. Moore previously worked as a production assistant for Morning Edition. During the 2020 presidential campaign, she worked for the Washington Desk as an editorial assistant, doing both research and reporting. Before coming to NPR, Moore worked at NBC News. She is a graduate of The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and is originally and proudly from Brooklyn, N.Y.