America Is Moving to the Right

Partisan winds blowing across America are pushing the country to the political right.

That’s the sobering conclusion of the annual “State of the States” report by Gallup, one of the country’s most reputable pollsters, based on interviewing 177,000 people across the U.S. in 2014. The report concludes that Democrats still have an edge when it comes to presidential elections, but also explains why congressional gridlock endures.

“Since 2008, there has been a significant movement away from the Democratic Party both at the national level and in many states,” Gallup reports. “Democrats still maintain a modest advantage in national partisanship, partly because they have an advantage in some of the most highly populated states such as California, New York and Illinois. At the same time, other large states like Florida and Texas are competitive, with Florida showing a slight Democratic edge and Texas a slight Republican one.”

“The GOP’s inability to dominate in many high population, electoral vote-rich states underscores the challenges it faces in presidential elections based on the winner-take-all electoral vote system,” Gallup explained. “The GOP can overcome that deficit with better turnout to some degree, but also must carry the vast majority of [2014’s 18] competitive states in order to win the [next presidential] election.”

On the other hand, when it comes to state-level politics, the GOP has made sizeable gains since 2008, they reported. In 2008, Gallup said there were 29 “solid Democratic” states, compared to 11 last year. Three of the bluest states—Massachusetts, Maryland and New Jersey—all recently elected or re-elected Republican governors. In contrast, Gallup said there were only four “solid Republican states” in 2008, while last year that figure was 10 states. Of those states, only Montana has a Democratic governor.

“Massachusetts and Maryland rank as the most Democratic states, and Wyoming and Utah are the most Republican, based on the political party identification and leanings of their state residents in 2014,” it said. “The Democratic advantage in Massachusetts and Maryland exceeds 20 percentage points, while Utah and Wyoming show Republican advantages of more than 30 points.”

Looking deeper, the states where voters identified as the most fervent Democrats has not changed very much since Gallup started its partisanship survey seven years ago.

“Nine states have ranked in the top 10 most Democratic every year, including Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, New York, Vermont, California, Hawaii, Delaware and Illinois,” it said. “New Jersey and Connecticut tied for 10th this year, and one or the other has been in the top 10 every year since 2008.”

In contrast, there has been more variation in the most strident Republican states over time, Gallup said, “with 17 different states appearing at least once since 2008.

“Wyoming and Utah have been the two most Republican states each year, with Idaho placing third in all but two years,” it reported. “In addition to those states, Kansas and Nebraska have ranked in the top 10 every year. Montana, Alabama, North Dakota and Alaska have been in the top 10 all but one year.”

As has long been the case, the bluest states are in the Northeast—from Maryland north to Maine—and along the Pacific Coast. Similarly, the reddest states are between the northern Rocky Mountains and western Plains—from Idaho and Utah eastward to the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas. Alabama and Tennessee are the reddest southern states.

“A state’s partisanship is an indicator of how the state will vote in federal and state elections, as well as the types of policies that will become law in those states,” Gallup said, discussing the “implications” of its findings. “Of course, the figures presented here are based on all state residents, and differences in turnout… can alter the political balance of the state electorate in a given election.”

It’s worth noting that Gallup said there were 18 “competitive” states in 2014, where the partisan balance could tilt either way. That’s a big number and those states, starting with the most Democratic-leaning, are: Minnesota, Florida, West Virginia, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada, Louisiana, Ohio, Arizona, Virginia, Iowa, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Georgia, Texas, Missouri and South Carolina.

What does this mean for progressives? It suggests that they will have to work harder at promoting their ideas, agenda and champions as voters appear to be a slightly more centrist or conservative phase. While unpredictable events can upend these kinds of forecasts, Gallup’s partisnship report is a reminder of how political differences both vary and remain fluid across America.


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