September 19, 2004

state electoral trends: AK, WA, OR

Here's the first in a series of graphs showing the voting patterns of each US state since 1960. I've taken the Democratic/Republican margin of victory (excluding 3rd parties) and charted its deviance from the national margin. Each score represents how much more or less Democratic the state voted than the country as a whole that year. Thus a +5% for East Dakota in 1988 would mean that, had Bush I and Dukakis tied in the national popular vote, The Duke would have taken ED with 55% to Poppy's 45%.

This formula is far from perfect, but it does reveal some interesting patterns here and there that might otherwise be overlooked. Each installment will cover two or three geographically related states; I tried to group them by similar political cultures, but in some cases there are some oddballs thrown together. Today is the Pacific Northwest: Oregon, Washington and Alaska (click for enlarged view).

Alaska, clearly the most partisan of the three states, has been on a general Republicanizing trend since LBJ's landslide in 1964. Washington has been on a more modest track in the opposite direction, albeit with a Republican dip in the Carter years, and Oregon has done some unpredictable zig-zagging.

Notice, though, how all three started trending more Democratic after 1976, peaking with Dukakis. This pattern is repeated across the northern tier of the US from the Pacific to the Great Lakes. I'm not a historian or political scientist, so I can only guess at the causes of these fluctuations, but I'm guessing that the contruction of the Alaskan oil pipeline in the 70's had something to do with that state's sharp Republican turn. And the Democratic trend in the 80's may be related to the collapse of the family farm and the related trickle-down pillaging of the heartland. Farm Aid and that kind of thing. But these are guesses. Supply your own.

What do these pictures tell us about November 2nd? Nothing we don't already know, I suppose. Alaska is solid red, Washington leans blue, and Oregon is the swingin'-est place on the West Coast - though keep in mind the Nader factor.

Next up: Hawaii, California and Nevada.