Hey, everyone. For a relaxed diary on this Memorial Day, I figured I'd highlight four national political trends that don't get the level of recognition they probably should. More below the fold.
Arizona's Presidential Consistency
Arizona is often mentioned as one of the next swing states due to the massive growth in its Hispanic population. However, looking at the past four Presidential elections, Arizona has given just about the same percentage of the vote to the Democratic nominee each time. Obama maxed out in 2008 with 44.9%, while Kerry bottomed out in 2004 with 44.3%. Both Obama and Gore received 44.5% in 2012 and 2000, respectively.
This makes Arizona the most consistent state at the Presidential level, and the only reasonable explanation I can come up with is that the white population is growing more Republican at such a rate that Hispanic growth is not having an effect on electoral outcomes.
Nebraska and Alaska's massive Democratic swings
The way I like to look at Presidential-level swings is comparing the 2004 results to the 2012 results. Both were fairly neutral years with similar overall turnout, and I think it really demonstrates the impact demographics have had on election results (ie, I think Kerry would have won by a decent margin if Kerry/Bush were held 8 years later).
Lost in the stories about the next swing states have been the red states where we made huge amount of progress, without the aid of a Presidential campaign. Two of those states are Nebraska and Alaska. In 2004, John Kerry received just 32.7% of the vote in Nebraska. In 2012, Obama received 38% of the vote, an increase of over 5%. This is not fast enough growth to make Nebraska competitive anytime soon, but it does demonstrate that the country is moving in our direction even in some of the least likely states. See also Alaska, where the Democratic share of the vote increased from 35.5% to 40.8%.
California's Preview of America?
30 years ago, California was one of the premiere swing states in Presidential elections. Today, it's one of our safest states, and is getting safer. See again the 2004 vs. 2012 results; an increase from 54.3% to 60.2%. As the demographics of the United States continue to change, are we headed towards California levels of domination? We shall see.
The Death of the Swing State
Since 1988 (as far back as you can go without hitting a landslide), just 21 states have voted the same way in every Presidential election. From 1992, that number increases to 32. Since 2000, it increases to a whopping 41, despite four elections having passed. I would then argue that 3 of the 9 states left (Indiana, New Mexico and Nevada) have since moved into relatively safe territory, leaving just six true, purple swing states.
The trend becomes even more stark when looking at closeness in Presidential elections. In 1988, there were 12 states decided by less than 5%, and that number remained the same in 2000. Further, 2000 saw 6 states decided by less than 2%. By 2008, those numbers were down to 8 and 3, respectively. Then in 2012, which was a fairly close election, we saw just 4 states decided by less than 5%, with only Florida below the 2% threshold.
If our hopes work out, new swing states will soon be on the horizon, with Georgia and maybe Arizona possible by 2016. But hardening partisanship seems to have made nearly 90% of our states safe for the time being.