A Gallup analysis released Monday shows that as the nation heads toward the 2012 presidential elections, the number of solidly Democratic states has fallen by half while the number of politically competitive states has almost doubled since 2008.
The analysis of party affiliation, based on telephone surveys, shows that Democrats have fallen from 2008, which was the highest level for the party in at least two decades, according to the polling organization. Democrats’ strength is generally back to where it was in the 2000’s, before wars, rising oil prices and the recession eroded Republicans’ standing. At that point, the parties were about even.
The data show a pitted road ahead for President Obama’s reelection efforts and difficulties for Democrats’ efforts to hold the Senate and recapture the House of Representatives since every state and the District of Columbia had fewer residents identifying as Democratic, or as independent but leaning Democratic, in 2010 than in 2008. The greatest declines were in Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine and Hawaii; the smallest were in North Dakota and Mississippi.
In 2008, 30 states were solidly Democratic, and that fell to 14 by 2010. The number of competitive states rose from 10 to 18, according to the findings.
Solidly Democrat in 2008, New Hampshire is now considered leaning Republican, the surveys found. Alabama, Kansas, Montana and South Dakota moved from a competitive designation to solidly Republican or leaning Republican while 12 other states -- Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin -- shifted from solidly or leaning Democratic to competitive. No states have moved in a more Democratic direction since 2008.
According to Gallup, Democratic states still outnumbered Republican states by 23 to 10 last year, and there were 14 solidly Democratic states compared with five solidly Republican states.
The results are based on Gallup Daily tracking and include interviews with more than 350,000 Americans each year since 2008. In 2010, Gallup interviewed at least 1,000 adults in every state but North Dakota as well as the District of Columbia. Overall, the organization said the margin of error was plus or minus 1 percentage point. The margins of error for individual states were less than plus or minus 4 percentage points, with states at plus or minus 3 percentage points.
In addition to the District of Columbia, the most solidly Democratic states are Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont and Hawaii, all showing at least 20-percentage-point advantages for the Democratic Party in the party preferences of their state residents. The most solidly Republican states are Wyoming, Utah and Idaho, with at least 20-point Republican advantages.
In general, New England and Middle Atlantic states make up most of the 10 most Democratic states. Most of the top 10 Republican states are from the mountainous West or plains regions.