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Most politically entrenched states in America—and how that could impact the election

  • Most politically entrenched states in America—and how that could impact the election

    With the Nov. 3 presidential election now just days away, tensions are high. With battle lines clearly drawn, the only thing that both sides can seem to agree on is that more drama is likely to follow the election no matter which way the votes go—and millions of voters have already locked in their choices as record early voting turnout sweeps the nation.

    Although the whole country is polarized, political partisanship is more entrenched in some states than in others.

    Using historical and current state data from Gallup, Ballotpedia, the Cook Political Report, 270toWin, and the National Conference of State Legislatures, Stacker ranked the states by how politically entrenched—or how partisan—they are.

    We first looked at how often a state voted for either the Democratic or the Republican party in the presidential election since 1964, the year the two parties realigned to form the parties they still are today. The states that voted for the same party the most, out of 14 elections, are ranked higher on the list, while those that have voted equally for both parties are ranked lower.

    To break ties, Stacker looked at the Cook Partisan Voter Index, which measures how a state voted in the past two presidential elections compared to the national average of both years.

    According to Cook, the Democratic presidential candidates won an average of about 51.5% of the vote between 2012 and 2016, and the Republican candidates won 48.5% of the vote. In the data, a Partisan Voter Index—a PVI score—of D +2, for example, means that the state performed roughly 2 points more Democratic in 2012 and 2016 than the nation did, and a score of R +3 means that the state performed more Republican than the national average of those two years. States that performed less than 0.5 points of the national average are considered “even.”

    Finally, Stacker listed the political affiliation of state residents, according to Gallup, and each state’s current governor, U.S. senators, and state legislature. These statistics are not available for Washington D.C., as it does not have representatives in Congress or the state legislature. Additionally, the party affiliation for Nebraska is not included, as it has a nonpartisan, unicameral state legislature that is not tied to a specific party or ideology.

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  • #51. New Hampshire

    - Presidential election outcome between 1964-2016: voted 7 times Democratic (50%), 7 times Republican (50%)
    - Cook Partisan Voter Index: even
    --- 2016 state popular vote: 46.8% Hillary Clinton, 46.5% Donald Trump
    --- 2012 state popular vote: 52% Barack Obama, 46.4% Mitt Romney
    - Resident political affiliation: strong Democratic (48% Democrat or lean Democratic, 36% Republican or lean Republican)
    - Governor political affiliation: Republican
    - Senator political affiliation: 2 Democratic, 0 Republican
    - Party in control of state legislature: Democratic
    --- State senate: 14 Democratic (58.3%), 10 Republican (41.7%)
    --- State house: 231 Democratic (57.8%), 158 Republican (39.5%)

    Despite voting with the Democratic candidate in six of the past seven elections—most recently by a razor-thin margin—New Hampshire is a perennial swing state known for its fiercely independent electorate. Its four electoral votes are not a particularly juicy conquest, but New Hampshire is a bellwether state and a huge symbolic prize. The first state to hold a true primary vote after the Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire’s voters fire the starting gun for the political season.

  • #50. Iowa

    - Presidential election outcome between 1964-2016: voted 7 times Democratic (50%), 7 times Republican (50%)
    - Cook Partisan Voter Index: R +3
    --- 2016 state popular vote: 41.7% Hillary Clinton, 51.1% Donald Trump
    --- 2012 state popular vote: 52% Barack Obama, 46.2% Mitt Romney
    - Resident political affiliation: competitive (42% Democrat or lean Democratic, 42% Republican or lean Republican)
    - Governor political affiliation: Republican
    - Senator political affiliation: 0 Democratic, 2 Republican
    - Party in control of state legislature: Republican
    --- State senate: 18 Democratic (36%), 32 Republican (64%)
    --- State house: 47 Democratic (47%), 53 Republican (53%)

    The quaint and sometimes clumsy Iowa caucuses are one of the most peculiar and closely watched parts of the American electoral process, but Iowa is taking center stage in 2020 for different reasons. President Donald Trump won the state handily in 2016, beating Hillary Clinton by nearly 10 percentage points, yet Democratic challenger Joe Biden has now evaporated that lead and even pulled ahead in polling, according to FiveThirtyEight. To add to the drama, Republican Sen. Joni Ernst is fighting for her political life—in what was supposed to be a safe seat occupied by a rising GOP star—in a race that could determine whether her party retains control of the Senate.

  • #49. New Mexico

    - Presidential election outcome between 1964-2016: voted 7 times Democratic (50%), 7 times Republican (50%)
    - Cook Partisan Voter Index: D +3
    --- 2016 state popular vote: 48.3% Hillary Clinton, 40% Donald Trump
    --- 2012 state popular vote: 53% Barack Obama, 42.8% Mitt Romney
    - Resident political affiliation: strong Democratic (48% Democrat or lean Democratic, 38% Republican or lean Republican)
    - Governor political affiliation: Democratic
    - Senator political affiliation: 2 Democratic, 0 Republican
    - Party in control of state legislature: Democratic
    --- State senate: 26 Democratic (61.9%), 16 Republican (38.1%)
    --- State house: 45 Democratic (64.3%), 24 Republican (34.3%)

    Record turnout is all but guaranteed this year in New Mexico, where 37% of the state’s 1.33 million registered voters had cast their ballots the week before the election. Just as in much of the country, Democrats are dramatically outpacing Republicans there in early and absentee voting, but hundreds of thousands more voters are expected to add to the tally on Election Day.

  • #48. West Virginia

    - Presidential election outcome between 1964-2016: voted 7 times Democratic (50%), 7 times Republican (50%)
    - Cook Partisan Voter Index: R +19
    --- 2016 state popular vote: 26.5% Hillary Clinton, 68.6% Donald Trump
    --- 2012 state popular vote: 35.5% Barack Obama, 62.3% Mitt Romney
    - Resident political affiliation: strong Republican (37% Democrat or lean Democratic, 49% Republican or lean Republican)
    - Governor political affiliation: Republican
    - Senator political affiliation: 1 Democratic, 0 Republican
    - Party in control of state legislature: Republican
    --- State senate: 14 Democratic (41.2%), 20 Republican (58.8%)
    --- State house: 41 Democratic (41%), 58 Republican (58%)

    Reliably red West Virginia delivered Donald Trump a resounding victory in 2016, but the story dominating headlines in the state this cycle is not partisan divide, but intense interest in early voting. West Virginians flocked to the polls early in droves, and by the time the election was two weeks away, three out of four people who requested an absentee ballot had returned one, and more than 200,000 residents had already voted.

  • #47. Nevada

    - Presidential election outcome between 1964-2016: voted 6 times Democratic (42.9%), 8 times Republican (57.1%)
    - Cook Partisan Voter Index: D +1
    --- 2016 state popular vote: 47.9% Hillary Clinton, 45.5% Donald Trump
    --- 2012 state popular vote: 52.4% Barack Obama, 45.7% Mitt Romney
    - Resident political affiliation: lean Democratic (45% Democrat or lean Democratic, 38% Republican or lean Republican)
    - Governor political affiliation: Democratic
    - Senator political affiliation: 2 Democratic, 0 Republican
    - Party in control of state legislature: Democratic
    --- State senate: 13 Democratic (61.9%), 8 Republican (38.1%)
    --- State house: 29 Democratic (69%), 13 Republican (31%)

    From the beginning, President Trump has insisted without substantiation that mail-in voting will be rigged or otherwise fraudulent. Evidence shows virtually no fraud within mail-in voting. In blue-leaning Nevada, one of the only battleground states in the West, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit to block early vote counting in the state.

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  • #46. Michigan

    - Presidential election outcome between 1964-2016: voted 8 times Democratic (57.1%), 6 times Republican (42.9%)
    - Cook Partisan Voter Index: D +1
    --- 2016 state popular vote: 47.3% Hillary Clinton, 47.5% Donald Trump
    --- 2012 state popular vote: 54.2% Barack Obama, 44.7% Mitt Romney
    - Resident political affiliation: lean Democratic (45% Democrat or lean Democratic, 39% Republican or lean Republican)
    - Governor political affiliation: Democratic
    - Senator political affiliation: 2 Democratic, 0 Republican
    - Party in control of state legislature: Republican
    --- State senate: 16 Democratic (42.1%), 22 Republican (57.9%)
    --- State house: 51 Democratic (46.4%), 58 Republican (52.7%)

    Few states matter more than Michigan, a big brick in the Democrats’ so-called “blue wall” that Donald Trump dismantled en route to victory in 2016. The president won Michigan by the slimmest of margins four years ago and without it, the path to victory becomes much more daunting for both candidates in 2020.

  • #45. Ohio

    - Presidential election outcome between 1964-2016: voted 6 times Democratic (42.9%), 8 times Republican (57.1%)
    - Cook Partisan Voter Index: R +3
    --- 2016 state popular vote: 43.6% Hillary Clinton, 51.7% Donald Trump
    --- 2012 state popular vote: 50.7% Barack Obama, 47.7% Mitt Romney
    - Resident political affiliation: competitive (41% Democrat or lean Democratic, 45% Republican or lean Republican)
    - Governor political affiliation: Republican
    - Senator political affiliation: 1 Democratic, 1 Republican
    - Party in control of state legislature: Republican
    --- State senate: 9 Democratic (27.3%), 24 Republican (72.7%)
    --- State house: 38 Democratic (38.4%), 61 Republican (61.6%)

    As in so many crucial swing states, unprecedented numbers of Ohioans locked in their votes well before Election Day. More than 1.11 million Ohio voters cast their ballots in a little more than two weeks in October and more than 2.7 million absentee ballots were returned when the election was still more than a week away. Those numbers dwarf the returns tallied during the same time period in 2016.

  • #44. New Jersey

    - Presidential election outcome between 1964-2016: voted 8 times Democratic (57.1%), 6 times Republican (42.9%)
    - Cook Partisan Voter Index: D +7
    --- 2016 state popular vote: 55.5% Hillary Clinton, 41.4% Donald Trump
    --- 2012 state popular vote: 58.4% Barack Obama, 40.6% Mitt Romney
    - Resident political affiliation: strong Democratic (50% Democrat or lean Democratic, 35% Republican or lean Republican)
    - Governor political affiliation: Democratic
    - Senator political affiliation: 2 Democratic, 0 Republican
    - Party in control of state legislature: Democratic
    --- State senate: 25 Democratic (62.5%), 15 Republican (37.5%)
    --- State house: 52 Democratic (65%), 28 Republican (35%)

    Three weeks before Election Day, The New York Times reported that Democrats were far outpacing Republicans in terms of early voting, even in the blue state’s most conservative strongholds. There, as in so much of the country, voters are casting ballots early in historic numbers that overwhelmingly favor Democrats.

  • #43. Illinois

    - Presidential election outcome between 1964-2016: voted 8 times Democratic (57.1%), 6 times Republican (42.9%)
    - Cook Partisan Voter Index: D +7
    --- 2016 state popular vote: 55.8% Hillary Clinton, 38.8% Donald Trump
    --- 2012 state popular vote: 57.6% Barack Obama, 40.7% Mitt Romney
    - Resident political affiliation: strong Democratic (50% Democrat or lean Democratic, 34% Republican or lean Republican)
    - Governor political affiliation: Democratic
    - Senator political affiliation: 2 Democratic, 0 Republican
    - Party in control of state legislature: Democratic
    --- State senate: 40 Democratic (67.8%), 19 Republican (32.2%)
    --- State house: 73 Democratic (61.9%), 44 Republican (37.3%)

    Illinois has been reliably blue since it voted for its last Republican presidential candidate, George H.W. Bush, in 1988—Chicago is a favorite target for conservatives who consider the city a portrait of the failures of Democratic leadership. Following a national trend, early voting in Illinois is shattering records, with 1.8 million votes cast statewide when there was still more than a week to go before Election Day.

  • #42. California

    - Presidential election outcome between 1964-2016: voted 8 times Democratic (57.1%), 6 times Republican (42.9%)
    - Cook Partisan Voter Index: D +12
    --- 2016 state popular vote: 61.7% Hillary Clinton, 31.6% Donald Trump
    --- 2012 state popular vote: 60.2% Barack Obama, 37.1% Mitt Romney
    - Resident political affiliation: strong Democratic (51% Democrat or lean Democratic, 31% Republican or lean Republican)
    - Governor political affiliation: Democratic
    - Senator political affiliation: 2 Democratic, 0 Republican
    - Party in control of state legislature: Democratic
    --- State senate: 29 Democratic (72.5%), 11 Republican (27.5%)
    --- State house: 61 Democratic (76.3%), 17 Republican (21.3%)

    If political parties were species, the GOP in California would be listed as endangered for extinction—as of 2019, the Democrats had 45% of the voters in California, according to the Record Searchlight. The GOP, commanding less than 25% of the vote, now comes in third behind “no party preference” and a Republican hasn’t held statewide office there since Arnold Schwarzenegger was re-elected as governor in 2006. California’s 55 electoral votes—the biggest prize of any state by far—is all but guaranteed to the Democrats.

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