Red State or Blue State: It’s Not All About Presidential Elections

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New study illustrates political trends at the state level.

Partisanship of state governments

By examining party control of state governance, it is possible to know if a state is 'moving blue' or 'moving red.'

Ballotpedia, a nonprofit and nonpartisan collaborative encyclopedia that connects people to politics, has released a groundbreaking study that highlights an alternative method to determine if a state leans politically red (Republican) or blue (Democrat). Using what the organization has dubbed the "partisan trifecta," Ballotpedia classified states based, not only on the most recent presidential election results, but on instances where a state elected the same party to the Office of Governor as it did to control the two legislative chambers.

“This is a new way to look at how a state leans politically,” said Geoff Pallay, lead author of the study. “After running the partisan trifecta analysis, we found that seven states ended up in a different column than the presidential vote analysis. By examining party control of state governance, it is possible to know if a state is ‘moving blue’ or if it is ‘moving red.’”

In 2012, voters in six states with Republican trifectas cast their ballot for President Obama. These states are Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. West Virginia, on the other hand, voted Republican for president while maintaining a Democratic trifecta for state government. Over the period studied, seven states moved from one partisan column to the other, while single party control of state governments has doubled in the past ten years.

Ballotpedia’s report, which analyzes data from 1992 to 2013, is part one of a three-part series. In addition to exploring the partisan trifecta, reports two and three will aggregate a variety of state rankings to create a quality of life index and overlay the partisan data with that index.

“To the extent that pundits, journalists or members of the voting public want to praise or blame political parties for the real-world economic, educational, health, or other quality of life outcomes at the state level, the degree of redness or blueness of partisan composition may be relevant. Pinpointing a state’s partisan trifecta could be vital to winning elections in the future, and potentially influencing how a state votes from the top of the ticket down,” added Pallay.

About Ballotpedia
Established in 2007, Ballotpedia is a nonprofit and nonpartisan collaborative wiki encyclopedia designed to connect people to politics through the free and open sharing of information. It includes information about the U.S. Congress, state legislatures, ballot measures (including ballot measure law, school bond and tax elections, recall elections and local ballot measures), and state executives. Ballotpedia's staff includes 23 researchers and writers, as well as volunteer writers and editors. Ballotpedia is published by the non-profit, non-partisan Lucy Burns Institute, which is based in Madison, Wisconsin.

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