01 October 2012

51 state bios - a primer

The 51 State Bios, in order of 2008 partisan rankings

-a Primer-

In November 2007, I wrote very rudimentary political "bios" of each of the 50 states plus DC, as a preface to the 2008 presidential election. The bios were published in the order of the 2004 partisan rankings, starting with the most conservative state and ending with the most liberal state, based on each state's performance - by margin - in the 2004 GE. Since George W. Bush (R) won re-election, the rankings went in conservative order. Here is an example: MONTANA.

ISince Barack Obama (D) won the election in 2008, the partisan rankings have now been re-ordered from the most liberal state to the most conservative state, based on exactly the same criteria: each state's performance - by margin - in the most current general election.

From November 2011 through January 2012, I completely revamped and enhanced these bios to include a wealth of information. This has been a major labor of love, one that has been very fullfilling for me.

The new state "bios" are at my blog at blogspot.com, but they are also "nested" in a subsection of the "Library" at Political Hotwire called "Electoral Statistics". Since "Political Hotwire" (PH, for short) is not a blog per se, but rather, a conglomerate of threads, then each bio is a thread and the information is spread out over 4-5 postings at the beginning of each thread.

At the end of this primer: a table with the hyperlinks to each bio thread at Political Hotwire.

A criticism came in as I was publishing the bios - that there was simply too much information, which I took as a good sign, for my point was to provide as much helpful information as possible and leave it up to the reader to decide what he or she wants to read or ignore.

This short primer is here to assist you in lnavigating these bios so that you get the most out of them. Once you get the hang of it, reading these bios can be great fun!

So, here we go:

First, each bio has the state's name and a map of that state as the title. The color of the state-map (red or blue) is based solely on that state's performance in the 2008 GE and is in no way a prediction of it's performance in 2012.

Immediately after the title, there is a table of the results of the last six presidential cycles. In some cases, the table is extended to ten cycles.

Here is an example from the state of MAINE:

First, many things are color-coded:

red = Republican
green = Independent
blue = Democratic.

This system is used throughout all the bios, especially for percentages. All percentages are to the 1/100th of a percentage point. This will make a lot of sense once you have seen the bios for KANSAS and NEBRASKA.

The first column (Year) is self-explanatory.

The second column (Rank) displays both the liberal and the conservative ranking. Every "state" (including DC) has a double ranking. So, we can see from 2008 that Maine was the 12th most liberal state and at the same time, the 40th most conservative state. The value that is bolded indicates which party won that state. So, a quick look at the rankings shows that this state went for the Democratic party for 5 cycles in a row.

Note: because of DC, there are 51 "states" in the rankings, not 50.

The third column, the "Winning %", is not the deciding factor in the partisan rankings; that honor goes to the percentage margin. But it is indeed helpful to have the winning percentage in such a table to see at a glance if that state is a predominantly majority-win state, or perhaps a minority-win state. From the table, we can see that for 5 of the last 6 cycles, Maine was a majority-win state.

The fourth column is the critical one, for a lot of ensuing data will be based upon it: the Winning Percentage Margin. Margins and TREND values are listed with + (and in come cases, with -) signs. This is the value that decides the order of the partisan rankings. Since Maine is currently number 12 in the rankings, this automatically means that President Obama won 11 other states with a margin higher than +17.32%, his winning margin from Maine. In 1988, George H.W. Bush, Sr. (R) won Maine with +11.45% margin and it was his 26th most conservative state. This means that 26 other states were won by him with a margin larger than +11.45%.

Mentally SKIP column five (Partisan Value) for a second. Go to column six ("Swing"). The swing is the margin from one cycle minus the margin from the previous cycle. The swing for Maine in 2008 was +8.32%, which you can then see easily: take the +17.32% from the margin column and subtract the number directly below it (margin from 2004), and you end up with this number. If your margin in one cycle is larger than the previous cycle, then your "swing" will be a postive value. If your margin in one cycle is SMALLER than the previous cycle, then logically your swing will be a negative value. The "swing" therefore tells us in which direction the electorate "swung" to more over the previous cycle.

Column seven is the national swing. This column will be identical for every state. What I did here was simply not insert a column for the national margin, upon which the national swing is based. You can just trust that I did my math correctly (I did).

Now, here is where things get interesting: the difference between a state's "swing" and the national "swing" in an election is called the TREND, which is the last column. The TREND value is important in predicting the stability of a state. The lower the TREND number, then the closer that state performed in relation to the national swing. You can say that by a low TREND number, the state "hugged" the national swing.

A high TREND number, on the other hand, indicates that this state is most likely very removed from being a bellwether and can be volatile. The TREND value is always positive and therefore in the color of the party for which it is positive. It is not a predictor of future performance: in Idaho, the trend from 2008 is actually a Democratic trend value, but the state is a landslide Republican state and will stay so. A lean TREND Value for the other team in a state where your team usually wins 60-40 is like a drop in the bucket.

Where the TREND value especially comes in handy is if it is the same color over many cycles, which usually indicates either superiority for one party in that state - or a state in ideological shift toward the opposition party. In the case of Maine, the TREND value for 2008 is a Republican one: Obama's statewide swing in Maine was +8.32%, but his national swing was +9.72%. This means that while 8.32% of the electorate in Maine switched sides over 2004 toward the Democratic Pary, on the national level, almost 10% did the same, which means that Maine was behind the national swing, making for a +1.40 TREND value for the GOP in spite of a Democratic landslide in that state. But when you look at all six cycles, you see four Democratic trends, three of them quite large, and two republican Trends, one large and one small. On the balance, Maine has trended strongly Democratic over time since 1988.

Now go back to column five: Partisan Value. Just as the TREND is a measurement of the state swing over the national swing, the Partisan Value is a measurement of just that year, of the state margin over the national margin. Obama won nationally in 2008 by +7.26%. His margin in Maine in 2008 was +17.32%. 17.32 - 7.26 = 10.06%. This means that Obama did 10.06% better in margin in Maine than he did nationally. A Partisan Value that is very high indicates that that state was a driving force in generating the national margin. Every candidate in every election will win states that are above his national average and some that are below his national average.

How important are these numbers?

Well, it depends on how you look at it, but if for six cycles you see a "sea" of just one color, then it is obvious that that state is a core state for it's respective party. A state that is a regular pick-up state, like Ohio or Florida, will have a mix of colors and certainly a number of negative values, as those states tend to go with the winner under his national margin.

Ohio is a good example of this, and you can use Ohio's 6-cycle table to practice some observational skills:

So, a quick look tells me that:

-Ohio is 3 for 3 in the last 6 cycles: 3 times for the GOP, 3 times for the Democratic Party.

-It is also 3 for 3 in majority vs. minority wins - and - two of the majority wins are bare-majority wins.

-In four of six cycles, the Partisan Value (statewide margin minus the national margin) is a NEGATIVE value, which means that for the last 20 years, Ohio has generally gone for a candidate under his national margin.

-Take a look at the margins themselves: from 1992 on, they are all single digit margins. This is a sign that points to: BATTLEGROUND STATE.

-The swings in this state are very inconsistent, yet another sign of a battleground state, and since it tends to go for the winner under the national margin more often than not, then the TREND is also a negative value for the winning team: For Obama, the TREND is a Republican trend. For Bush in '04, the TREND is a Democratic trend. Clinton had a huge Ohio swing in 1992, but nonetheless, it was still slightly less than his national swing, and therefore the TREND is actually a Republican trend in 1992!

So, lots of mixed colors and negative values by Partisan Value and Swing indicate competitive status in a state.

Ohio is also a good place to remember that when calculating swing, remember that a postive value for one team is automatically a NEGATIVE value for the other. And remember that "swing" is the margin from one cycle minus the margin from the other. So, why is the "swing" in 2008 +6.69% for the Democratic party for Ohio? One would think that +4.58% minus +2.11% would equal +2.47%, but those values are not from the same party. A +2.11% margin for Bush in 2004 equals a -2.11% margin for Kerry in that year, so the Ohio swing 2008 would look like this in longhand:

4.58 - (-2.11) = 4.58 + 2.11 = 6.69

So, when you see two opposing colors for a swing calculation, instead of subtracting, you add. This is why using a color scheme is so incredibly helpful!

Don't worry, as of here on out, the primer goes fast. As a matter of fact, the bulk of information about a state can really be gleaned from the 6-cycle table, once your eyes get used to the configuration.


Underneath the table is the 6-year margin average, based on the margins you see in the fourth column.

Based on the landslide or non-landslide nature of the win and the trend values, then a general trend for the state will be given: Democratic, Strong Democratic, Republican, Strong Republican, or steady. A state that may have just been a pick-up for the other side, for instance, Indiana in 2008, is not necessarily a Democratic trending state. It "swung" Democratic for one cycle, but in the context of the last six cycles, Indiana is still a GOP state.

I then took the partisan rankings for every state all the way back to 1964 and put them in an excel table. For each state, I then provide a cutaway of that state (usually highlighted in yellow to set it off), so that you can see the visual placement of each state over a 44 year time period. Since political hotwire only allows 50,000 characters per posting and an excel table chews up just thousands of extra characters behind the code, I have often put this table all by itself in the second posting.


Next comes a table of handy links for information.

Here, for example, is the links table for UTAH:


Helpful Info Links
Helpful Election Links
Complete UT electoral raw data (presidential)
UT Census Information
UT county-by-county EXCEL spreadsheet
UT Census Profile map
UT election results and VR stats (1960-present)
UT population 2008: 2,736,424
UT Population Density: 12.9 persons per sq. Km.
Electoral Vote Density: 547,285 persons per EV.

That is all pretty self-explanatory stuff. The county-by-county spreadsheet for each state is one I put together BY HAND for each state, and is a comparative spreadsheet for each county over 2004.

Under the links table is a quick numeric layout of the number of electors that state has had throughout it's history.

Here, for example, the electors from NEW YORK:

Electoral Development (electors through history):  8 (1789), 12 (1792-1800), 19 (1804-1820), 36 (1824-1828), 42 (1832-1840) 36 (1844-1848), 35 (1852-1860), 33 (1864-1868), 35 (1872-1880), 36 (1884-1900), 39 (1904-1908), 45 (1912-1928), 47 (1932-1948), 45 (1952-1960), 43 (1964-1968), 41 (1972-1980), 36 (1984-1988), 33 (1992-2000), 31 (2004-2008), 29 EV (2012- )

The underlined represents the largest amount of electors the state has had and the bolded indicates it's current electoral delegation.


Afterwards, a summary begins. The first three paragraphs take some of the numbers from the 6-cycle table from above and puts them into a form of conversation. Here for example is the beginning of the summary for KENTUCKY:

"Kentucky is the 9th most conservative state and the 43 rd most liberal state, with a Republican winning margin of +15.06% and having voted 23.68% more Republican than the national margin in 2008. Although Kentucky was one of 6 southern „Clinton“ states to vote against Obama (D) in 2008, it, unlike WV and TN, both swung and trended toward the Democratic party in 2008.
Kentucky was the 14th most conservative state and the 38th most liberal state in 2004, with a Republican winning margin of +19.86% and having voted 17.40% more Republican than the national margin in that year.

Kentucky was the 25th most conservative state and the 27th most liberal state in 2000, with a Republican winning margin of +15.13% and having voted 15.65% more Republican than the national margin in that year."


Afterward, there are some statistics about how often the state went for each side for a certain period of time.

There is often some history of the state, especially in the cases of states that were affected by the Missouri Compromise of 1820.

As of this point, the bios vary from state to state:

For 11 conservative states, there is a special section for them.

For 9 Southern states, there is a special section for them.

For the 9 Obama pick-ups from 2008, the bios are relatively very short, but hyperlinked to MASSIVE analyses that I did of these states back in 2009.

For some states, I go back in history to pre-1856, when I think it is helpful. For others, I don't. For instance, did you know that West Virginia originally had a different name? Go check it out.

I often point out 3rd party notes of mention, things that are individual to a state, but not necessarily to the nation.

For a number of states, I use a large table to show how incumbents have fared in that state in their re-election bids.

Some states have extraordinary statistically anomalies that are so rare, one of those one-in-a-billion type of things - and I usually point this out. For instance, did you know that the state of Missouri went by exactly the same percentage margin, down to the 100th of a percentage point, in both 1920 and 1928?

The analysis ends up with a short paragraphs depicting the state either as a bellwether or not. Here, for instance, from Washington State:

"Based on its voting record, WA is in absolutely no way a bellwether state, having missed the winner in 8 of the 30 cycles in which WA has participated in the Electoral College, and in more recent history, WA has missed the winner in 5 of the last 13 cycles, going back to 1960. It has missed the winner from both parties pretty much equally."

That small paragraph is a sign that the bio is about to come to an end.

There is one more table, of the superlatives for each party in that state, including Independent Party statistics. Here, for instance, from NEBRASKA:

NE Superlatives
Winning %
Winning margin
Largest IND %, not a win 

All-time "squeaker"

Nebraska is interesting in this way because of the split statistic for the GOP.

The final paragraph is a very short description of that state's state government, with a hyperlink to the state legislature. Here as an example, ARIZONA:

"In Arizona, the Governor, Lt. Governor, both Senators and 5 of 8 US Representatives are Republicans. The other 3 US Representatives (including Gabrielle Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt in January 2011) are Democrats. In the  Arizona Legislature, the Republicans have a hypermajority in both Houses."

Arizona is interesting in that, with the resignation of Giffords from congress, as soon as her slot is filled, I will be updating this data.


Up till the very end, it has only been data, data, data and lot of interesting history, without any opinion of my at all.

In the FACIT:, I allow myself just a smidge of opinion, but even that goes well in line with the statistics from that state. Usually, the FACIT is short, but in some cases where my FACIT from 2007 was off some, I expound a little. Here is an example from the Old Dominion of VIRGINIA:

"FACIT : in 2007, I wrote: VA is statistically a solid GOP state, but the senate election in 2008 and Hillary Clinton's already very high polls numbers (leading her GOP contenders) puts this state, which would normally be "safe" GOP, in the battleground column. Expect a lot of money, advertising and campaign stops in this state. I suspect that this state will flip.

And so it was, with Obama's win in
Virginia, which has statistically become a Democratic leaning state, but is expected to be a battleground in 2012."


Under the main report for each state in Political Hotwire, there are threads for storing polling information for 2012, voter registration information, and also an area specific to the current GOP nomination race.


So, this primer now comes to an end. I hope you enjoyed reading it, and more importantly, I hope it will be of assistance to you in when looking for information vis-a-vis electoral statistics in each state of the Union. Should you have questions, feel free to email me. I will be happy to help where I can.

I do have a large personal goal with these numbers: with new advances in software for statistics presentations, I am very hopeful of being able to create an interactive, 3-D type of information animation that will incorporate virtually all the raw data presented in each state bio. For instance, the electoral development of each state (the number of electors throughout history) is just in a quick written form right now. It is lacking the depth of seeing how each state stood in relation to the other states at each juncture in history. With 3D presentation software, I can make this information much more "hands on" with time.


Here are the hyperlinks for each state bio, also for the county-by-county excel document:

New State Partisan Ranking Bios – based on 2008, looking toward 2012.

State in Ranking Order
State - Alphabetical
Statewide County-by-County (.xls)
01 / 51: District of Columbia
AL Excel 2008-2004
02 / 50: Hawaii
AK Excel 2008-2004
03 / 49: Vermont
AZ Excel 2008-2004
04 / 48: Rhode Island
AR Excel 2008-2004
05 / 47: New York
CA Excel 2008-2004
06 / 46: Massachusetts
CO Excel 2008-2004
07 / 45: Maryland
CT Excel 2008-2004
08 / 44: Illinois
DE Excel 2008-2004
09 / 43: Delaware
FL Excel 2008-2004
10 / 42: California
District of Columbia
Excel 2008-2004 - does not exist
11 / 41: Connecticut
GA Excel 2008-2004
12 / 40: Maine
HI Excel 2008-2004
13 / 39: Washington (State)
ID Excel 2008-2004
14 / 38: Michigan
IL Excel 2008-2004
15 / 37: Oregon
IN Excel 2008-2004
16 / 36: New Jersey
IA Excel 2008-2004
17 / 35: New Mexico
KS Excel 2008-2004
18 / 34: Wisconsin
KY Excel 2008-2004
19 / 33: Nevada
LA Excel 2008-2004
20 / 32: Pennsylvania
ME Excel 2008-2004
21 / 31: Minnesota
MD Excel 2008-2004
22 / 30: New Hampshire
MA Excel 2008-2004
23 / 29: Iowa
MI Excel 2008-2004
24 / 28: Colorado
MN Excel 2008-2004
25 / 27: Virginia
MS Excel 2008-2004
26 / 26: Ohio
MO Excel 2008-2004
27 / 25: Florida
MT Excel 2008-2004
28 / 24: Indiana
NE Excel 2008-2004
29 / 23: North Carolina
NV Excel 2008-2004
30 / 22: Missouri
New Hampshire
NH Excel 2008-2004
31 / 21: Montana
New Jersey
NJ Excel 2008-2004
32 / 20: Georgia
New Mexico
NM Excel 2008-2004
33 / 19: South Dakota
New York
NY Excel 2008-2004
34 / 18: Arizona
North Carolina
NC Excel 2008-2004
35 / 17: North Dakota
North Dakota
ND Excel 2008-2004
36 / 16: South Carolina
OH Excel 2008-2004
37 / 15: Texas
OK Excel 2008-2004
38 / 14: West Virginia
OR Excel 2008-2004
39 / 13: Mississippi
PA Excel 2008-2004
40 / 12: Kansas
Rhode Island
RI Excel 2008-2004
41 / 11: Nebraska
South Carolina
SD Excel 2008-2004
42 / 10: Tennessee
South Dakota
SD Excel 2008-2004
43 / 09: Kentucky
TN Excel 2008-2004
44 / 08: Louisiana
TX Excel 2008-2004
45 / 07: Arkansas
UT Excel 2008-2004
46 / 06: Alaska
VT Excel 2008-2004
47 / 05: Alabama
VA Excel 2008-2004
48 / 04: Idaho
Washington (State)
WA Excel 2008-2004
49 / 03: Utah
West Virginia
WV Excel 2008-2004
50 / 02: Oklahoma
WI Excel 2008-2004
51 / 01: Wyoming
Excel 2008-2004

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