Special Report: Many States Shift Democratic During 2005

by Jeffrey M. Jones

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

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- An analysis of Gallup Poll data from 2005 shows that the Democratic Party made gains in party identification among the American public. The year marked new lows in President George W. Bush's job approval ratings amid difficulties in Iraq, high gas prices, and criticisms of the government response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Democrats made gains in party identification on the national level and more U.S. states had Democratic leanings in 2005 than any time in the last four years.

Gallup conducted more than 42,000 interviews in its multi-day polls in 2005, and asked each American who was interviewed whether he or she identified as a Republican, independent, or Democrat. If respondents identified as independents, Gallup asked whether they leaned more toward the Democratic or the Republican Party. The large number of interviews allows for an analysis of partisanship at the state level, which Gallup has done in each of the last four years.

Overall, in 2005, basic party identification was even -- 33% of Americans each identified as Republicans, independents, and Democrats. When independents' leanings are taken into account, the Democrats gain an advantage -- 48% of Americans either identified as Democrats or leaned to the Democratic Party, while 43% identified as Republicans or leaned to the Republican Party. That represents the largest Democratic advantage since 2000. Democrats have typically held an edge in partisanship in modern U.S. political history, so the recent changes can be thought of as a return to the past.

Yearly Averages in Party Identification (Including Leaners), 1991-2005

Year

Democrats +
Independent-
Leaning
Democrats

Republicans +
Independent-
Leaning
Republicans

Democratic
Advantage

%

%

%

1991

43.9

47.8

-3.9

1992

49.4

41.5

7.9

1993

48.4

41.1

7.3

1994

46.4

44.3

2.1

1995

45.5

44.3

1.2

1996

49.0

41.9

7.1

1997

49.2

40.1

9.1

1998

48.7

40.8

7.9

1999

48.2

41.0

7.2

2000

46.9

42.4

4.5

2001

45.4

44.1

1.3

2002

44.7

45.1

-0.4

2003

45.1

45.2

-0.1

2004

47.9

45.2

2.7

2005

47.7

43.2

4.5

The following table shows that Democratic strength in party identification -- particularly in comparison to Republican strength -- grew as Bush's approval ratings declined in the first three quarters of 2005, before leveling off in the final quarter. Bush's approval ratings showed further decline in the fourth quarter even while partisanship stayed steady.

2005 Quarterly Averages, Bush Job Approval and Republican and Democratic Identification

Quarter

Bush Approval
Avg.

Democrat/
Lean Democrat
Avg.

Republican/
Lean Republican
Avg.

Democratic
Advantage

%

%

%

%

1 (Jan-Mar)

51.3

46.1

45.9

0.2

2 (Apr-Jun)

47.5

47.4

43.2

4.2

3 (Jul-Sep)

44.8

48.7

41.8

6.9

4 (Oct-Dec)

40.6

48.5

42.0

6.5

Additionally, the number of states where the Democrats hold an edge in partisan identification grew last year for the second year in a row. Twenty-eight states plus the District of Columbia now have a Democratic advantage in party identification of more than three percentage points, while 14 have Republican advantages, and six can be considered competitive (Gallup does not normally interview in Alaska and Hawaii).

In 2002 and 2003, more states had Republican advantages than Democratic advantages. The current figures are similar to what they were in 1993 for the Democrats (29 states versus 30 in 1993), though there are also more states with a Republican advantage now (14) than in 1993 (9).

Number of States With Democratic or Republican Advantage in Party Identification

Year

Democratic
Advantage

Even*

Republican
Advantage

2005

29

6

14

2004

22

8

19

2003

17

11

21

2002

16

12

21

1993

30

10

9

* Party advantage of 3.0 percentage points or less.

Note: The District of Columbia is included as a state.

Rhode Island and Delaware rated as the most Democratic states in 2005, with Democratic advantages of 30 or more points in party identification (Washington, D.C., as usual, had an even larger advantage of more than 60 points). Massachusetts and Connecticut also rate as strongly Democratic states. Every Northeastern state had at least a small Democratic advantage, with Pennsylvania's 3.6 point advantage being the smallest.

Massachusetts was the most Democratic state in 2002 and 2004. In 2003, Vermont and Arkansas were. Washington, D.C., had a greater Democratic advantage than those states in all the years.

Utah and Wyoming have a history of being the most Republican states and were again in 2005. Utah was the most Republican state in 2003 and 2004, and Wyoming was in 2002. Both states had Republican advantages just below 30 points in 2005. Nebraska and North Dakota had Republican advantages of 20 points or more.

Most Western and Plains states are in the Republican column, though there are some exceptions, such as Montana, which is competitive, and Nevada, which is Democratic. Five of the six competitive states are in the South -- North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. Tennessee was evenly balanced between Republican and Democratic sympathizers. Arkansas, Louisiana, and Kentucky are three Southern states with Democratic advantages, while Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas are Republican states in the South.

Some caution must be exercised when interpreting the estimates of smaller states due to their more limited sample sizes.

Party Identification by State, 2005 Gallup Polls, Ranked by Democratic Advantage

State

Dem.
+ Lean

Independent
(non-
leaning)

Rep.
+ Lean

Advantage
(% Dem.
minus
% Rep.)

Number
of
Inter-
views

%

%

%

%

District of Columbia

80.3

1.5

18.2

62.1

80

Rhode Island

61.1

11.7

27.2

33.9

156

Delaware

63.3

6.6

30.1

33.2

112

Massachusetts

56.7

9.2

34.1

22.6

976

Connecticut

55.5

10.1

34.4

21.1

533

New York

55.2

8.1

36.7

18.5

2361

New Jersey

53.7

8.7

37.5

16.2

1060

Oregon

53.5

7.6

38.9

14.6

747

New Hampshire

52.7

8.4

38.9

13.8

268

West Virginia

53.2

6.7

40.2

13.0

370

Maryland

52.9

6.8

40.4

12.5

714

Nevada

52.0

8.2

39.7

12.3

339

Michigan

52.0

7.9

40.1

11.9

1354

Maine

49.6

12.6

37.8

11.8

314

Washington

49.8

12.0

38.2

11.6

1112

Arkansas

51.8

7.7

40.5

11.3

462

Minnesota

51.0

8.5

40.5

10.5

866

Illinois

51.8

6.4

41.8

10.0

1387

California

50.9

7.4

41.7

9.2

4172

Kentucky

51.6

5.5

42.9

8.7

744

Missouri

50.0

8.3

41.7

8.3

938

New Mexico

49.7

8.4

41.9

7.8

317

Ohio

49.4

8.2

42.4

7.0

1791

Iowa

49.3

7.6

43.1

6.2

522

Louisiana

49.8

6.6

43.6

6.2

548

Vermont

46.6

11.6

41.9

4.7

140

Wisconsin

47.1

10.0

42.9

4.2

878

Pennsylvania

48.0

7.5

44.5

3.5

2374

Colorado

47.2

8.9

43.9

3.3

880

North Carolina

47.0

7.2

45.7

1.3

1430

Florida

46.9

7.5

45.6

1.3

2350

Virginia

46.2

8.0

45.8

0.4

1155

Montana

41.8

16.6

41.6

0.2

211

Tennessee

46.7

6.5

46.8

0.0

893

Oklahoma

45.9

6.5

47.6

-1.7

624

Alabama

44.5

7.9

47.7

-3.2

665

Georgia

44.3

7.5

48.2

-3.9

1125

Arizona

43.3

8.8

47.8

-4.5

842

South Dakota

41.1

11.8

47.1

-6.0

112

Indiana

41.1

9.8

49.2

-8.1

955

Mississippi

40.0

9.4

50.7

-10.7

374

Kansas

39.7

7.7

52.6

-12.9

430

South Carolina

38.3

8.8

52.9

-14.6

592

Texas

37.6

9.0

53.5

-15.9

2574

Idaho

36.7

10.1

53.2

-16.5

308

North Dakota

33.8

10.1

56.1

-22.3

95

Nebraska

33.1

10.0

56.9

-23.8

264

Wyoming

30.6

9.2

60.2

-29.6

109

Utah

30.9

8.3

60.8

-29.9

364

Generally speaking, most states have not changed their overall partisan orientation dramatically in recent years. While some year-to-year change can be expected due to sampling error in the estimates -- especially in the less populous states -- change can also occur based on the way the political winds are blowing, and on societal shifts such as migration into and out of the state. Change is more likely to occur over a longer time span, as many Southern states that could be classified as Democratic in 1993 are now competitive, if not Republican.

The following table shows how each state can be classified over the years for which data are available, using the same convention as above (greater than a three-percentage-point difference to be considered as oriented toward either party, a three-point difference or less to be considered competitive).

Party Advantage in U.S. States, Recent Years

State

1993

2002

2003

2004

2005

District of Columbia

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

Rhode Island

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

Delaware

Dem

Dem

Dem

Rep

Dem

Massachusetts

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

Connecticut

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

New York

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

New Jersey

Comp

Dem

Comp

Dem

Dem

Oregon

Dem

Comp

Dem

Dem

Dem

New Hampshire

Comp

Rep

Rep

Comp

Dem

West Virginia

Dem

Dem

Dem

Comp

Dem

Maryland

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

Nevada

Rep

Rep

Comp

Rep

Dem

Michigan

Dem

Comp

Dem

Dem

Dem

Maine

Dem

Dem

Comp

Rep

Dem

Washington

Dem

Dem

Comp

Dem

Dem

Arkansas

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

Minnesota

Dem

Comp

Comp

Dem

Dem

Illinois

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

California

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

Kentucky

Dem

Comp

Dem

Dem

Dem

Missouri

Dem

Comp

Rep

Comp

Dem

New Mexico

Comp

Rep

Comp

Dem

Dem

Ohio

Dem

Rep

Comp

Dem

Dem

Iowa

Dem

Comp

Dem

Dem

Dem

Louisiana

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

Dem

Vermont

Rep

Comp

Dem

Dem

Dem

Wisconsin

Dem

Comp

Comp

Dem

Dem

Pennsylvania

Dem

Dem

Comp

Dem

Dem

Colorado

Comp

Rep

Rep

Comp

Dem

North Carolina

Dem

Rep

Comp

Comp

Comp

Florida

Comp

Comp

Comp

Comp

Comp

Virginia

Comp

Rep

Rep

Rep

Comp

Montana

Comp

Comp

Rep

Rep

Comp

Tennessee

Dem

Rep

Rep

Comp

Comp

Oklahoma

Dem

Comp

Rep

Comp

Comp

Alabama

Dem

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

Georgia

Dem

Comp

Rep

Rep

Rep

Arizona

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

South Dakota

Comp

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

Indiana

Comp

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

Mississippi

Dem

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

Kansas

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

South Carolina

Comp

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

Texas

Dem

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

Idaho

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

North Dakota

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

Nebraska

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

Wyoming

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

Utah

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

Rep

Some of the major findings:

A total of 13 states can be classified as Republican for each of the past four years (from 2002 to 2005) -- Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, North Dakota, Idaho, Texas, South Carolina, Kansas, Mississippi, Indiana, South Dakota, Arizona, and Alabama.

A total of nine states plus the District of Columbia can be classified as Democratic for each of the past four years -- Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, Arkansas, Illinois, California, and Louisiana.

Florida can be classified as competitive for each of the last four years, North Carolina for each of the last three years, and Tennessee and Oklahoma for the last two years.

Eight states flipped between one party and the other at some point during the last four years -- Delaware, New Hampshire, Maine, Nevada, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, and Colorado.

The following six states are affiliated with different parties now than in 1993: Nevada and Vermont (switching from Republican to Democratic), and Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas (shifting from Democratic to Republican).

South Dakota, South Carolina, and Indiana were considered competitive in 1993, but have been reliably Republican in each of the last four years. New Jersey was considered competitive in 1993 but has been Democratic in three of the last four years, and was competitive in 2003.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with 42,431 adults, aged 18 and older, each part of randomly selected national samples conducted in 2005. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±1 percentage point. 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.

Margins of error for individual states vary, from a low of ±2 percentage points for California to a high of ±11 percentage points for North Dakota.

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