Combined Presidential Elections, 1856-2012

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This map uses election data from 1856 to 2012 to show the most Republican and Democratic states over US presidential election history. This map was NOT created by adding all the total votes for each party in each state and comparing them, as that would put more weight on more recent elections. Instead, an average was taken of the two-party share of the vote in each state, after eliminating votes for third-party candidates. So, if a state voted 40% republican, 45% republican, and 50% republican in three elections, it would average 45% republican, even if significantly more votes were cast in one election than the others.

The data starts in 1856 because that’s when the Republican party first debuted in a presidential election.

A few observations based on this map:

– A lot of the presidential geography we take for granted is very recent. The South is a mostly Republican area today, but was the “Solid South” for the Democrats for over a century. Even after the battle over Civil Rights switched the South to the Republicans, Democratic presidential candidates could compete in that region. Carter swept most of the South in 1976, and in 1980 it was one of his stronger regions in a landslide loss. Bill Clinton was able to win several southern states in both 1992 and 1996. And even Obama has won a few southern states in both 2008 and 2012. If we balance 100 years of solidly Democratic voting with 50 years of a slight Republican lean, we can see why the South comes out in this map as a Democratic region.

-Likewise, a state like Vermont that we think of as solidly Democratic is really a very recent addition to the Democratic coalition. The state didn’t switch sides until 1992, before that it was usually a solidly Republican state with Democrats only winning it in landslides such as 1964. Because of this long history as a Republican state, it is second only to Kansas in average Republican vote.

-If we were to use the current electoral college, and assign states based on which party got a higher share of the two-party vote from 1856 to 2012, the Democrats would win in a very close election, 296 electoral votes to 242.

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-Looking at Republican states, their most consistent stronghold has been the Great Plains and the Western Mountain states:

State Republican Share of the Two Party Vote, 1856-2012
Kansas 61.38%
Vermont 60.79%
North Dakota 59.90%
Nebraska 59.75%
Idaho 59.48%
Alaska 59.01%
Wyoming 58.82%
Utah 57.01%
South Dakota 56.44%
Maine 55.11%
Iowa 53.77%
New Hampshire 53.62%
Michigan 53.30%
Oklahoma 53.22%
Colorado 53.05%
Pennsylvania 52.83%
Oregon 52.47%
Minnesota 52.47%
Wisconsin 52.13%
Indiana 52.13%
Nevada 51.61%
Ohio 51.43%
Arizona 51.34%
Washington 50.92%
Connecticut 50.84%
Massachusetts 50.78%
Illinois 50.46%
Montana 50.36%
New Jersey 50.13%
New Mexico 49.71%
California 49.40%
Rhode Island 49.20%
West Virginia 48.74%
New York 48.34%
Delaware 47.77%
Missouri 46.39%
Tennessee 45.10%
Kentucky 44.95%
Maryland 44.26%
North Carolina 43.56%
Virginia 43.33%
Hawaii 42.26%
Alabama 41.27%
Florida 40.07%
Arkansas 38.80%
Texas 37.86%
Georgia 34.39%
Louisiana 34.26%
South Carolina 31.64%
Mississippi 31.54%
District of Columbia 12.89%

Looking at the results above, the “swingiest” state has been New Jersey, where Republicans have won an average of 50.13% of the two-party vote since 1856.

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