Friday, March 13, 2009

Small state voters less partisan?

Yesterday I was on the radio in Wilmington wrapping up our Delaware poll and the host asked me, 'so as a pollster who does surveys around the country, what's different about Delaware?'

Great question. What struck me was that voters in the state seemed to be less partisan than those in bigger places. We've done approval/favorability ratings on about 50 different politicians over the last three months. Only three of them had plurality support from voters in the opposite party. Andrew Cuomo was one of them but the other two were both in Delaware and represented each party- Democrats gave Mike Castle net positive reviews and Republicans gave Jack Markell the same.

I thought about it, and there are actually a number of deep blue or deep red states at the Presidential level who consistently give resounding reelections to certain statewide officials in the opposite party. North Dakota's Congressional delegation consists entirely of Democrats who have won at least 60% in their last two reelection contests. Vermont has a popular Republican Governor while Wyoming has a popular Democratic Governor. Maine has two unbeatable Republican Senators. South Dakota has a Democratic Senator and House member. Montana has a Democratic Governor and two Democratic Senators. All of these states vote the same way for President pretty much every time, and usually by a wide margin, but that hasn't kept opposite party politicians from enjoying widespread popularity.

I was talking to someone in Delaware about this earlier this week and he said that he thought it was a product of retail politics- that in a small state folks feel like they really know their politicians and that personal familiarity can trump party labels.

3 comments:

Dan said...

Another important reason: Appropriations and earmarks. Small states depend on the money their Senators bring home, and that incites them to vote for incumbents of any party. That's an important reason the ND Senators are so strong, for instance.

Rasmus said...

I think that both points are right- Tom is certainly right that small state constituents are more familiar with their politicians, and that's especially true for Delaware, where the same 4-5 politicans are practically political inventory.

Also, Dan has a good point with the earmarks- this explains why Ted Stevens was so competitive against Begich last year- his earmarks may have been worth 20 points or so for him. Or why WV won't ever vote against Byrd even after it has turned red.

But this can't be true for governors- they don't bring earmarks home. Probably it's just that a small state governor has some difficulties to do something wrong.

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