Overall, the picture looks just as you’d expect with liberal states concentrated on the West Coast and in the Northeast while the South and upper Rocky Mountains are the most conservative areas.
Contrary to popular belief, neither liberals nor conservatives hold an absolute majority in any state, although conservatives are very close in Wyoming, the most conservative state in the country. Forty-nine percent of Wyomingites self-identify as conservative. This yields a 35-point advantage over the 14 percent of the Wyoming population considered to be liberal.
A number of other states have conservative populations in excess of 40 percent as well. In fact, Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Idaho all have conservative populations of greater than 45 percent.
Vermont tops the list of most liberal states. With 40 percent liberal and only 26 percent conservative, liberals have a 14-point advantage.
Interestingly, far fewer voters identify as liberal in blue states than do conservatives in red states. Many deep blue states are characterized by a difference of only a few points. For example, in Massachusetts, the second most liberal state, liberals only lead conservatives by eight points. In the next two most liberal states, Connecticut and New York, the difference is four and two points respectively. Believe it or not, in deep blue, far left California, conservatives actually outnumber liberals 30-29 percent.
When the state totals are examined, the share of moderate voters remains relatively constant. Moderates make up about a third of the electorate in almost every state. With neither party at a majority anywhere, moderates are the decisive group in most elections.
Even though the poor showing for liberals in blue states may indicate an unwillingness of some liberals to accept the liberal label, the polling results indicate an opening for conservatives in many blue states. If the ideological groups are statistically equal in a state like California, Republicans can win this Democratic stronghold by making inroads to the moderates in the mushy middle of the political spectrum. Splitting the moderate vote could swing the state to the GOP.
Conversely, in the 19 states where Republicans make up more than 40 percent of the electorate, Democrats would need to win virtually all moderate votes to move any of these states to the blue column.
The problem for Republicans is that a Gallup poll from last year showing party identification indicated that almost all of the state’s moderates identified as Democrats. California’s actual election results showed that, at 32 percent, the Trump vote in California was almost identical to Gallup’s estimates of conservatives and Republicans for the state. Donald Trump lost practically all moderate and independent voters for the state.
The trend is national as well. CNN exit polls show a breakdown of 26 percent liberal, 39 percent moderate and 35 percent conservative in the 2016 election. Trump lost the moderate vote 40-52 percent, but still won the election.
Moderates didn’t flock to Trump, whose share of the group was almost identical to Mitt Romney, but many did abandon Clinton. Trump’s victory was partly due to the eight percent of moderates, the largest ideological demographic, who voted for “someone else.”
Gallup’s survey also showed that the usual swing states all have about a 10-point conservative advantage. Colorado and New Hampshire, both with a 9-point conservative advantage, were the most liberal swing states.
The polling data indicates that winning blue states, as Donald Trump did, is a realistic goal for Republicans. A winning strategy would be to nominate conservative candidates who also have a strong appeal to moderate and independent voters.