The Reddest and the Bluest

PRB looked at the results from the last five elections (from 1988 through 2004) and identified 20 states that have been reliably Republican, with another 18 (plus the District of Columbia) that have been reliably Democratic.2 As the map shows, these states follow regional patterns: Republican states tended to be in the South, Great Plains, and Mountain West, while Democratic states tended to be in the Northeast, Great Lakes, and on the West Coast.

State Typologies Based on 1988-2004 Presidential Elections

Why Recent History did Not Hold in 2008

While these historical trends are useful in analyzing the outcome of the upcoming election, news reports and state polls in recent weeks have suggested that changes might be in play for 2008. Several states that have been reliably Republican over the past 20 to 40 years are considered swing (or “battleground”) states this time around. This list includes Colorado, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Three post-2000 demographic trends emerge when examining these new swing states:

  • Each state has a higher voting-age population (VAP) growth rate than the national average (9 percent).
  • The Hispanic rate of growth in voting population has been especially high.
  • Much of the growth has occurred among minority groups and in suburban, exurban, and urban areas (see table).

Florida, long considered a swing state, shares the same trends but to an even greater degree. These trends may have reshaped the political map as we have come to know it over the past couple of election cycles.

Change in Voting-Age Population (VAP), 2000-2007: Selected Battleground States in 2008

State Total VAP increase Hispanic VAP increase Share of Total VAP Increase
Selected racial/ethnic groups Metropolitan areas
Traditionally Republican States
Colorado 15% 32% Hispanics: 32% 47% in Denver
North Carolina 12% 53% African Americans: 23%
Hispanics: 18%
29% in Raleigh-Durham
25% in Charlotte
Virginia 10% 51% Hispanics: 21%
African Americans: 21%
Asian Americans: 15%
47% in Northern Virginia
(including exurbs)
Traditionally Democratic States
Pennsylvania 3% 44% Hispanics: 38%
African Americans: 24%
Asian Americans: 20%
40% in Philadelphia suburbs
Swing States
Florida 15% 40% Hispanics: 42%
African Americans: 19%
19% in Miami-Fort Lauderdale
16% in Orlando
14% in Tampa-St. Petersburg
Missouri 7% 48% African Americans: 15%
Hispanics: 13%
35% in St. Louis
20% in Kansas City
15% in Springfield
Ohio 3% 34% African Americans: 26%
Hispanics: 18%
Asian Americans: 14%
43% in Columbus
34% in Cincinnati

Note: Data for African Americans and Asian Americans are for non-Hispanic members of these groups who did not identify with another racial group

Sources: Population Reference Bureau, analysis of data from U.S. Census Bureau, “Annual State Population Estimates with Sex, 6 Race Groups (5 Race Alone Groups and One Group with Two or more Race Groups) and Hispanic Origin: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2007,” accessed online at on May 31, 2008; and “Annual Estimates of the Resident Population by Selected Age Groups and Sex for Counties: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2007,” accessed online, on Aug. 31, 2008.

As for the racial groups, 66 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 56 percent of non-Hispanic blacks, and just 28 percent of Hispanics (a testament to Hispanics’ citizenship rates of 61 percent) voted in the 2004 election.

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Filed under: Presidential Elections

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