What’s in the data
Regarding the data posted yesterday, I used the same methodology that I used when analyzing the overall voting applied to each seating in the House, Senate and Presidency. For 1952, the numbers reflect the elections for the candidates for the 1952 House, 1952 President, 1952 Senate, 1950 Senate and 1948 Senate. All of the winners were expected to be seated in the federal government in 1952. Then I broke that down by state. I then did the same for the people currently in our national government as a result of the 2016 election.
As an added bonus, I calculated the best statewide participation in each of those elections. So, I determined which of the four elections under consideration in each state had the highest turnout and calculated the percentage of the population based on the most recent census.
Lastly, I decided which state was truly red or truly blue in terms of federal voting. I called it red or blue if: 1) that party received about 55% of all the votes under consideration; 2) chose a Senator and a President from that party; and 3) went for that party with 55% or more of House votes. That felt pretty strict.
Why compare those?
Seemed like a good idea?
Republicans won the Presidency succeeding a Democrat that did not run for the office. The leader of the Republican party in both cases had toyed with the idea of joining either party. The Republican party appeared ascendant in some of the lower races. Of course, data accessibility mattered. I wanted enough time to have passed that changes within states would be meaningful.
Let’s start with participation
I want to start with a string of epithets. Look at the participation numbers for 1952! Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia are all below 20%! That’s the best they could muster! Four of those states went blue. None went red. Arkansas and Louisiana didn’t make 25% and they also both went blue. National participation came in at just over 40%. Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Nevada, Massachusetts, Illinois, Delaware and Connecticut all peaked out above 50%.
By 2016, nationwide participation was above 44%. Louisiana was the champion and only state to exceed 60%. Considering their miserable record in 1952, that is downright astounding. No state fell below 30%. Hawaii and Texas probably ought to do something to improve participation, however.
So, the heinous results appear to have waned. Honestly, if your participation is below 20%, then it looks like shenanigans are afoot. I’m not sure that we can feel good about a situation in which over half the population has no say in the election, but we do show improvement nationwide and at the state level over 60 years.
In eleven Senate races across 1948-1952, the Democratic candidate face no Republican opposition (Alabama, Arkansas(2), Georgia(2), Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia). That happened twice for the Republicans (California and Florida). No Republicans received votes in the House races in Georgia. Across 2012-2016, that happened for the Democrats once (California) and the Republicans twice (Alabama and Kansas). In Vermont, the Republican did not face a Democrat and still lost. Also in Vermont, the House candidate was an unopposed Democrat.
Moving on to party loyalty
Using my methodology outlined above, eight states were strongly Democratic in 1952. Fourteen were Republican. In 2016, the Democrats have increased their states to 14 and the Republicans to 17. That means that we have gone from 56% of the states being arguably in play to 38%.
As discouraging as that sounds, 36 states changed their alignment between 1952 and 2016. In the scheme of things, that does make the situation seem fluid. Four states were Republican in 1952 and remained so in 2016: Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Utah. Six states went from blue to red. Three went the other way. The rest included going neutral in the mix.
Perhaps that is the most important message. Change may seem glacial in terms of a lifetime, but change does appear inevitable for the political landscape.
Tomorrow, I will wrap up with some thoughts about what all this data and analysis might mean. Just as importantly, the fact that change is inevitable does not mean that we have no impact on the nature of that change. I may have some thoughts about the direction that we want to guide the change.