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Presidential Elections State-by-State: Hardening Partisanship

by Rob Richie, Andrea Levien // Published February 5, 2013

 

Over the last few decades, presidential election outcomes within the majority of states have become more and more predictable, to the point that only ten states were considered competitive in the 2012 election. Due to the state-by-state winner-take-all method of allocating Electoral College votes, competitive states receive much more campaign attention than their non-competitive counterparts. 

The table below provides a state-by-state review of presidential outcomes and competitiveness. It shows how some states have not been competitive for than a half-century and how most states now have a degree of partisan imbalance that makes them highly unlikely to be in a swing state position for at least a decade. Additional information is available for download in PDF and Excel formats.

Highlighted Findings:

  • Number of States Won by Same Party, 2000-2012 = 41 of 51 states (counting D.C)
  • Number of States Won by Same Party, 1992-2012 = 32
  • Number of States Won Only by Republican Party, 1980-2012 = 13
  • Number of States Won Only by Democratic Party, 1992-2012 = 19
  • Number of Safe Democratic States Not Swing State since 1988 = 7
  • Number of Safe Republican States Not Swing State since 1988 = 16

  • Definitions:

  • "Close state": A state with a margin of victory less than 6% in a given election
  • "Swing state": A state with partisanship rating between 47% and 53% in a given election
  • "Partisanship":  A state's partisanship rating based on its deviation from the national partisan division between the major parties in a given presidential election
  •  

    State

    Last Year:

    Swing State

    Last Year:

    Battleground

    Last Year Won by Party 

    That Lost State in 2012

    # of Elections 

    In a Row

    Won by Same Party

    Alabama 1984 1980 1976 9
    Alaska 1972 1968 1964 12
    Arizona 1952 1996 1996 4
    Arkansas 2000 2000 1996 4
    California 1996 1988 1988 6
    Colorado 2012 2012 2004 2
    Connecticut 1992 1988 1988 6
    Delaware 1992 1980 1988 6
    District of Columbia* (never) (never) (never) 13
    Florida 2012 2012 2004 2
    Georgia 1992 2008 1992 5
    Hawaii 1992 1980 1984 7
    Idaho 1948 1964 1964 12
    Illinois 1988 1988 1988 6
    Indiana 1984 2008 2008 1
    Iowa 2012 2012 2004 2
    Kansas 1988 1992 1964 12
    Kentucky 1992 1996 1996 4
    Louisiana 1996 1992 1996 4
    Maine 2000 2000 1988 6
    Maryland 1988 1988 1988 6
    Massachusetts 1956 1984 1984 7
    Michigan 2004 2004 1988 6
    Minnesota 2012 2004 1972 10
    Mississippi 1976 1996 1976 9
    Missouri 2004 2008 1996 4
    Montana 1992 2008 1992 5
    Nebraska** 1912 1964 1964 12
    Nevada 2012 2004 2004 2
    New Hampshire 2012 2012 2000 3
    New Jersey 1992 1992 1988 6
    New Mexico 2004 2004 2004 2
    New York 1976 1988 1984 7
    North Carolina 2012 2012 2008 1
    North Dakota 1988 1976 1964 12
    Ohio 2012 2012 2004 2
    Oklahoma 1976 1976 1964 12
    Oregon 2000 2004 1984 7
    Pennsylvania 2012 2012 1988 6
    Rhode Island 1956 1984 1984 7
    South Carolina 1960 1996 1976 9
    South Dakota 1988 1996 1964 12
    Tennessee 2000 2000 1996 4
    Texas 1988 1996 1976 9
    Utah 1948 1912 1964 12
    Vermont 1988 1988 1988 6
    Virginia 2012 2012 2004 2
    Washington 2000 2000 1984 7
    West Virginia 1972 1988 1996 4
    Wisconsin 2012 2004 1984 7
    Wyoming 1956 1992 1964 12

    * The District of Columbia did not vote in presidential elections until the election of 1964, three years after the ratification of the 23rd amendment. It has voted for the Democratic candidate in every election since 1964.

    **In 2008, Nebraska's 2nd congressional district was both a swing district and went to Barack Obama (D). However, the state as a whole has been solidly Republican for 50 years.