Friday, March 13, 2009

The Red-Blue Divide

Just for the heck of it, I decided to figure out just how "red" and "blue" each of the fifty American states have been during our nation's recent political history. To do this, I looked at the results of every presidential election since 1992 and compiled a detailed list of which states voted Democrat every time, which states voted Republican every time, and which states varied during given elections. The results of my inquiry are listed below.

Constant Red States (states that voted Republican in every election from 1992 to 2008):
  1. South Carolina
  2. Alabama
  3. Mississippi
  4. North Dakota
  5. South Dakota
  6. Nebraska
  7. Kansas
  8. Oklahoma
  9. Texas
  10. Wyoming
  11. Idaho
  12. Utah
  13. Alaska
Constant Blue States (states that voted Democratic in every election from 1992 to 2008):
  1. Maine
  2. Vermont
  3. Massachusetts
  4. Connecticut
  5. Rhode Island
  6. New York
  7. New Jersey
  8. Pennsylvania
  9. Maryland
  10. Delaware
  11. Washington, D.C.
  12. Michigan
  13. Wisconsin
  14. Illinois
  15. Minnesota
  16. Washington
  17. Oregon
  18. California
  19. Hawaii
As you may have noticed, more than three-fifths of our Union has dependably supported one of our two major parties in every presidential election since the Clinton-Bush-Perot contest of 1992 brought an end to the immediate Reagan era (i.e., the period beginning with his first election and ending after he left office, which thus encompasses three presidential elections since the Bush-Dukakis contest of 1988 took place while he was still in office). Next we need to look at the states which are as close to dependable as possible - the ones that voted constantly red or blue in all but one of the elections from 1992 to 2008.

Nearly Constant Red States:
  1. Virginia (deviated in 2008)
  2. North Carolina (deviated in 2008)
  3. Georgia (deviated in 1992)
  4. Indiana (deviated in 2008)
  5. Montana (deviated in 1992)
  6. Arizona (deviated in 1996)
Nearly Constant Blue States:
  1. New Hampshire (deviated in 2000)
  2. Iowa (deviated in 2004)
  3. New Mexico (deviated in 2004)
All that remains now are the purple, or swing, states, which split their votes as close to evenly as possible in the five elections herein discussed. It is worth noting that none of these swing states are split right down the middle - because we have an odd number of elections, all of them lean either slightly red or slightly blue. That is why I have labelled those states that went Republican three-out-of-five times as "Reddish Purple States" and those that went Democratic three-out-of-five times as "Bluish Purple States".

Reddish Purple States:
  1. Florida
  2. Missouri
  3. West Virginia
  4. Kentucky
  5. Tennessee
  6. Louisiana
  7. Arkansas
  8. Colorado
Bluish Purple States:
  1. Ohio
  2. Nevada
So what can glean from these figures? For one thing, it is remarkable just how many states have consistently supported either one candidate or the other in every one of these elections (31 states, as well as the District of Columbia, voted for one party or the other in all five elections, and a grand total of 40 states plus DC voted for one party or the other in all but a single election). For another, it makes the electoral college breakdown in future presidential elections that much more interesting, as seen in the figures below.

Note: The number of electoral votes distributed to each of the states varies in accordance with the new figures that come out during each census. As we are due for a new census in 2010, the electoral college tallies presented below - which are based on the electoral vote allocations from the 2004 and 2008 elections that came from the 2000 census - will not be precisely accurate by 2012, which will have electoral vote allocations taken from the 2010 census and will likely see one additional vote added to the Electoral College.

Let us look at the number of electoral votes guaranteed to each party, based on the states that went one way or the other in all five contests:

Electoral Votes Guaranteed to Republicans: 93
Electoral Votes Guaranteed to Democrats: 248

As you can see, even when the electoral college adjustments caused by the 2010 census are taken into account, Democrats can rely upon a much heftier chunk of that vote than can the Republicans. Now let us look at these same figures, only with the electoral votes that went to one or the other party in all but a single election incorporated in there:

Electoral Votes Virtually Guaranteed to Republicans: 160
Electoral Votes Virtually Guaranteed to Democrats: 264

Although the margin between the Democrats and Republicans has narrowed, it is still quite considerable. Finally, let us look at the distribution when the proclivities of the purple states are added to create a final sum:

Republican Electoral Votes: 249
Democratic Electoral Votes: 289

Those swing states significantly depleted the Electoral College lead for the Democrats, although it ought to be born in mind that that diminished margin is dependent upon states that recent history has shown can swing either way. What is most noteworthy here is that, although Republicans often talked about the ascent of Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1980 as having ushered in an era of national Republican rule, the electoral college map tells a different story. It does back up their story insofar as the three presidential elections of the 1980s are concerned (Reagan-Bush-Anderson in 1980, Reagan-Mondale in 1984, and Bush-Dukakis in 1988), since the first one occurred during an unpopular Democratic administration and the last two took place during the reign of his extraordinarily popular Republican successor. That said, it cannot be ignored that thirty-two states (for the sake of argument I am including DC as a state right now) consistently voted against the Republican party once Ronald Reagan no longer existed to lead them, with the sum of their electoral votes coming just shy of what would have been needed to deprive the Republicans of victory in all five subsequent presidential elections. This suggests that while Reagan's personal popularity was enough to create an era of Republican dominance during the decade that bore his name, it created a political culture that turned a massive portion of the country permanently against the Grand Old Party as soon as Reagan was gone.

There is one more set of statistics that I would like to share. It is a list of the popular vote percentages accumulated by the two major parties (as well as any major third parties when they existed) in the elections from 1992 to 2008.

Republican Democratic Third Party
1992: 37.4 43.0 18.9
1996: 40.7 49.2 8.4
2000: 47.9 48.4 2.7
2004: 50.7 48.3
2008: 45.7 52.9
Average: 44.5 48.4 10.0

There you have it: Even in an era when Republican claimed to rule the land, more Americans on average cast their votes for Democratic presidential candidates than they did Republican ones (although a full one-out-of-ten decided to vote for different parties altogether). It is only appropriate that I end this article on its most fitting conclusion: With the exception of George W. Bush's defeat of John Kerry in 2004, the Republicans did not win the popular vote in any of the presidential elections during the past decade.

This era is quite comparable to the period of Republican rule that supposedly occurred in the five presidential elections following the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, during which the GOP allegedly "dominated" our body politic even though they lost the popular vote in three-out-of-five of those elections (and only received the presidency in one of those contests by stealing it from the rightful Democratic winner). That, however, is another discussion for another time.

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