The Strength of Major Party Vote Intention by State

In an era of an increasingly strong attachment to parties and increasing numbers of people who feel this way, vote share for the two major political parties in U.S. elections has understandably risen. As an example, major party vote–defined as the sum of the Democratic and Republican candidate vote shares (or vote intention shares in polls)–in states during the 2012 election reinforced this idea. Four states saw their population vote for major party candidates a combined 96 percent of the time, nine states were at 97 percent, 22 states at 98 percent, 14 states at 99 percent, and one state (Oklahoma) saw its citizens give 100 percent of their to either Obama or Romney.

At least at this point in the 2016 election given the state of the polls, that same level of major party vote has dropped. This development can be attributed to two main sources: 1) the unusually higher number of undecided voters at this point in the race and 2) the unusually higher support for third party candidates. Intended votes for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein have declined over the last few months, but the two remained poised to exceed their success from 2012. Independent candidate Evan McMullin’s rise in Utah has contributed an even bigger wrinkle in this dynamic. The undecided and third party vote percentages vary across different states,  but overall represent valuable opportunities for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to collect more support in a tightening race just days removed from Election Day. The states where the major parties have the weakest consolidated vote also have the greatest possibility of late-term shifts that could alter the outcome.

The below two maps speak to this issue, with the first here showing where the Democratic and Republican Parties have most locked down the vote. The more purple a state is, the greater the major party vote is; yellow indicates where this vote is smallest.

Data from HuffPost Pollster.

Unsurprisingly, the state in which a third party candidate has the highest support in the nation stands out vividly. With McMullin currently polling at 22 percent in his home state, Utah currently stands far and away as the state with the lowest major party vote with just 62 percent going to Clinton and Trump. Utah represents more of an outlier–but no less significant in what is shows because of that status–and thus changes the color distribution where it’s hard to clearly see what other states have low major party support. The below map shows the same dynamic but excludes Utah from the color gradient calculation and map.

Data from HuffPost Pollster.

Here we see a lot more variation in major party support in the U.S. at this moment in the election. The five states with the highest major party intended vote are as follows:

  1. Kentucky (96 percent)
  2. Alabama (94 percent)
  3. Mississippi (93 percent)
  4. North Dakota (93 percent)
  5. Florida (92 percent)

Many of these states are in the South, where Republican Party attachment is strong with the majority population (white voters) and where Democratic Party attachemnt is even stronger but with a minority population (African-American voters).

Interestingly, the fifth ranked state here in Florida also claims the status of one of the foremost battleground states in the country, currently holding the highest chance of being the “tipping point” state in the election (the state whose electoral votes puts the winner past the threshold). Much less indecision remains in The Sunshine State, and so turnout rates will matter more than the few minds that are yet to have been made up.

The five states with the lowest major party intended vote are the following ones:

  1. Vermont (74 percent)
  2. Idaho (76 percent)
  3. New Mexico (76 percent)
  4. Alaska (79 percent)
  5. Washington (79 percent)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the remaining effect and animosity generated from the primary season may be affecting matters in the general election. There’s a chance that may be playing out here as well. In the two traditionally Republican-leaning states listed, Idaho and Alaska, Trump lost his primary battles. Similarly, in two of the three Demcoratic-heavy states, Vermont and Washington, Clinton faltered during the primary season and suffered her most resounding defeat in Vermont–the state now showing the lowest signs of major party support. Among the two sets of states, the major party vote seems to be low due to the dominant partisan consituencies not (yet) falling back on their party nominees.

The national average of major party support in all states currently stands at 85 percent, a far cry from the 98 percent average in the actual results from the 2012 election. The comparison between polls three days out from the election and the election results themselves may exaggerate this difference a bit, but it’s fairly clear we’re going to see some of the highest non-major party support in recent decades come November 8th. At the same time, it also make for an interesting test for the well-documented partisanship strength among Americans these days–and whether the most important tie in American politics can reel these voters in to their respective parties by Election Day.

The Strength of Major Party Vote Intention by State

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