Party ID: Despite GOP Gains, Most States Remain Blue

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Massachusetts, Rhode Island most Democratic; Utah, Wyoming most Republican

PRINCETON, NJ -- Rhode Island and Massachusetts -- along with the District of Columbia -- were the most Democratic U.S. states in 2009, based on their residents' stated political affiliations. Wyoming and Utah ranked as the two most Republican states in the nation.

Top 10 Democratic States, 2009 Top 10 Republican States, 2009

These results are based on aggregated data from Gallup Daily tracking in 2009, including interviews with more than 350,000 adults in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. Gallup conducted at least 1,000 interviews in every state except Wyoming (878), North Dakota (968), Delaware (997), and the District of Columbia (632). Gallup interviewed more than 20,000 residents each in California, Texas, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Nationwide, party support shifted in a slightly more Republican direction in 2009 after a historically strong Democratic year in 2008. Overall, 49% of Americans in 2009 identified as Democrats or said they were independent but leaned to the Democratic Party, while 41% identified as Republicans or were Republican-leaning independents. That 8-point Democratic advantage compares to a 12-point, 52% to 40%, Democratic advantage in 2008.

Thus, even with the reduction in Democratic strength, the party still maintained a solid advantage over the Republicans nationally last year. It follows, then, that most states continued to be Democratic in their political orientation. (A table showing the full data for each state appears at the end of the article.)

It is important to note that the classification of states reported here is based on the political affiliations of all residents, and does not necessarily indicate how a state might vote in a given election. Also, the partisanship figures include independents who have a partisan leaning with each party's core identifiers. This makes the states more comparable because the percentage of independents varies widely by state, and can understate a party's true strength in a state.

State of the States: Political Party Advantage (Based on Polling for Calendar Year 2009)

In total, 23 states plus the District of Columbia can be classified as solidly Democratic, with a 10 percentage-point or greater advantage in party affiliation in favor of the Democrats. This includes most of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions, most of the Great Lakes region, and the Pacific Coast.

Another 10 states can be considered Democratic leaning, in which the state's Democratic supporters outnumber Republican supporters by at least 5 percentage points but less than 10 points. These are Missouri, Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida, New Hampshire, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, Indiana, and Tennessee.

Four states are solidly Republican, with a better than 10-point advantage in Republican affiliation -- Wyoming, Utah, Alaska, and Idaho. Alabama qualifies as the lone Republican-leaning state, with a 6-point advantage in Republican affiliation.

That leaves 12 states that are competitive, with less than a 5-point advantage for either party. Among these 13 states, 6 tilt in a Republican direction: Montana, Nebraska, Mississippi, Texas, North Dakota, and Kansas. Six tilt toward the Democratic Party: Georgia, South Dakota, Louisiana, Arizona, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.

Party Trends by State, 2008 vs. 2009

As at the national level, most of the states showed movement in the Republican direction in 2009, with a reduction of the Democratic advantage in 39 states and the District of Columbia. The greatest movement toward the GOP occurred in the District of Columbia, Ohio, Louisiana, Montana, and Hawaii. Seven states showed at least a slight increase in the Democratic advantage, while four states showed no change.

Change in Democratic Advantage by State, 2008 vs. 2009

But these shifts were generally not large enough to fundamentally shake up the political map. In fact, the total number of Republican-leaning or solid Republican states was unchanged from the prior year. Rather, in 2009, there was an increase in competitive states and Democratic-leaning states, and a reduction in the number of solidly Democratic states, from 30 to 24.

Classification of States by Political Party Affiliation, 2008 vs. 2009

The lists of top 10 Democratic and Republican states were also generally similar in 2008 and 2009. The membership of the 10 most Democratic states was the same in 2009 as in 2008, with a minor shuffling of the order of these. The District of Columbia, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts topped the Democratic list in both years.

Last year, Utah ranked ahead of Wyoming as the most Republican state, but this year Wyoming has a slight edge. Arizona and South Carolina were among the top 10 Republican states in 2008 but were just outside the top 10 list in 2009. Texas is new to the list of top 10 Republican states.

Bottom Line

Despite the modest shift toward a decreased affiliation with the Democratic Party and an increased affiliation with the Republican Party in 2009 compared to 2008, the United States remained a Democratically oriented nation last year. In all, 33 states and the District of Columbia were either solidly Democratic or leaning Democratic in terms of the political party leanings of their residents. Twelve states were fairly evenly balanced between Democratic and Republican supporters, and 5 states were solidly or leaning Republican.

Gallup's "State of the States" series reveals state-by-state differences on political, economic, and wellbeing measures Gallup tracks each day. New stories will be released throughout the month of February.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 353,849 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted in 2009 as part of Gallup Poll Daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

The margin of error for most states is ±2 percentage points, but is as high as ±4 percentage points for Delaware, Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia. For the most populous states, the margin of error is ±1 percentage point.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones and cellular phones.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Party Identification and Democratic Advantage by State, 2009, Including Number of Interviews per State

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