Which states vote Democratic?

By Razib Khan | September 1, 2012 11:24 pm

In the comments below there was a question as to political party consistency over the decades in terms of voting by state. A quick correct impression is that the Democratic South shifted toward Republican, while New England went the opposite direction. In contrast much of the Midwest remained Republican over the whole period. How does this comport with the quantitative data?

I went about this in a relatively straightforward manner. First, I computed the national average Democratic vote in presidential years since 1912 (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and D.C.) using the states as input values (so this would differ from the popular vote percentages, as low population states would have the same weight as high population states). Second, I then converted the state results into standard deviation units. Then, I computed the standard deviation of these values. So, for example, Mississippi tended to have larger positive values in the first half of the 20th century (voted more Democratic than the nation as a whole), but shifted toward negative in the later 20th century (less Democratic than the nation as a whole). Because of this shift Mississippi had a high standard deviation over the years, since its national position was highly dispersed over time. In contrast, New Mexico was much closer to the national mean over time.

Here’s the rank ordered list:

State Variation
Mississippi 2.12
South Carolina 1.76
Alabama 1.65
Georgia 1.41
Louisiana 1.28
Vermont 0.99
Massachusetts 0.98
Rhode Island 0.92
Texas 0.91
Utah 0.88
Arkansas 0.87
Maine 0.80
Oklahoma 0.71
Florida 0.71
Minnesota 0.70
New York 0.67
North Carolina 0.66
Michigan 0.64
Connecticut 0.61
Virginia 0.60
Iowa 0.60
Pennsylvania 0.59
Wisconsin 0.58
South Dakota 0.58
Idaho 0.58
Illinois 0.57
Washington 0.57
West Virginia 0.56
Tennessee 0.55
North Dakota 0.54
Nebraska 0.54
New Jersey 0.54
California 0.53
Wyoming 0.53
New Hampshire 0.52
Arizona 0.50
Delaware 0.50
Nevada 0.47
Kentucky 0.47
Maryland 0.46
Oregon 0.46
Montana 0.43
Kansas 0.41
Colorado 0.39
Missouri 0.36
Ohio 0.32
Indiana 0.27
New Mexico 0.27

And also a chart of the top nine most volatile states over the past 100 years. 

To focus on the states which have been consistently Republican here’s mean Democrat vote vs. the deviation. As you notice, nothing’s the matter with Kansas!

Here’s a spreadsheet with the data and computations.


MORE ABOUT: Politics
  • ghuil

    It wold be interesting correlate this data with social data like imigration and economy growth in this period.

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    #1, do it!

  • blavag

    There is actually a well developed literature on all this:

    You all do know about the American National Election series right?


    also Gelman et al, Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do

    and Mellow, State of Disunion

    Stonecash, Class and Party in American Politics

    Fiorina et al, Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America

  • http://www.russellturpin.com/ Russell

    The question is, what does it mean, given that the parties have changed so much over the last century? Perhaps it would be possible to tease out of the data which groups are leaders and followers in that change? Don’t know. Another interesting question is what changes in coalition alignment are likely or possible?

  • John Emerson

    The parties were strictly regional and ethnic before 1896 or so, disagreeing only on prohibition, the tariff, and various other secondary issues. They were not divided left-right in our terms.

    With Brian a left-populist influence entered the Democratic Party but it was not dominant. Before 1932 both parties were basically anti-tax little government freemarketers, with adjustments on specific issues, though both parties had maverick progressive wings.

    The first big change was the New Deal, but even after the New Deal conservative Democrats remained, and not only in the South. With this change a lot of formerly Republican states in the Midwest and east started voting Democratic.

    Eisenhower swept everyhting but the South in 1952. In 1968 Humphrey kept the new Midwestern and Eastern states but lost the South. McGovern lost everything. Carter was a relatively conservative Democrat (he talked about diminishing expectations) and patched together the old coalition one more time. Then came Reagan.

    I see four inflections: Bryan, FDR, 1968, and Reagan. Old-style non-progressive Republicans are the same as ever, but they’re now outnumbered in the East and part of the Midwest. Wyoming is unchanged, but without the progressive Republicans. Southern conservative Democrats are now conservative Republicans (the Civil War stopped being a live issue somewhere around 1930, though Lincoln still isn’t terribly popular down there.)

  • Solis

    Interesting post, Razib.

    I did something similar some months ago comparing the most and least segregated states in the U.S. with their tendency to vote Republican or Democrat.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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