Utah presidential politics

Not that anyone needs any more suspense tonight, but I’ll be keeping a curious eye on Utah’s election results. By all accounts, Kerry will lose big there. In fact, according to this site, Utah is shaping up to be the most pro-Bush state in the union, just as it was four years ago. Of course, remarkably dismal showings by Democrats are not unheard of in Utah. In 1980, Utahns turned out Jimmy Carter and handed Ronald Reagan the biggest landslide (72/20) in Utah history since Roosevelt’s win in 1936. And in 1992, Utah was, famously, the only state that preferred both Bob Dole and Ross Perot to Bill Clinton.

It wasn’t always like this. From 1932 through 1948, Utah went solidly Democratic (Roosevelt and Truman), to the great consternation of prominent church leaders like Heber J. Grant and J. Reuben Clark. But since the 1952 election, the only Democrat to win in Utah has been Lyndon Johnson in 1964 — and even that year Barry Goldwater did better in Utah than he did nationwide. What does this tell us? For one, that with respect to presidential elections at least, Utah is the most reliably Republican state in the nation. And the only state that really gives Utah a run for their money on that score is Idaho. For harmony’s sake, I’ll avoid the bigger questions this raises, but while you are living and dying with the Florida or Ohio tallies tonight, sneak a peak to see if our lovely Deseret lives up to its reputation.

20 comments for “Utah presidential politics

  1. At 10:15, with the polls just barely closed (there are actually 0% of precints reporting), both CNN and Yahoo News have called Utah. In the red column, of course.

  2. Thanks Kaimi. Makes you wonder why they didn’t just call it yesterday.

    Just curious, did anyone in Utah see a Bush or Kerry commercial this year? Did either party spend a penny there on the presidential race?

  3. My uncle, Bob Bennett, is running for his third term as the Junior Senator from Utah. No, I don’t believe he spent a cent on his own campaign, either.

  4. “For harmony’s sake, I’ll avoid the bigger questions this raises…”

    Oh, come on Greg, you’re a bubble trying not to burst. Let it out!

  5. Greg, your quote from Joseph Smith (via my song) was a statement he made knowing his upcoming martyrdom. Care to share?

  6. Utah is shaping up to be the most pro-Bush state in the union, just as it was four years ago.


    A slight correction: in 2000, both Idaho and Wyoming gave higher percentages to Bush. See here.

    Dan Richards

  7. It seems to be a rural vs. urban thing (mainly), plus the Great Plains, Rocky Mountains & most of the central US lean GOP. Urbanites tip toward the Demos; Ruralites toward the GOP. Utah, therefore, tips to the GOP. Idaho & Wyoming, even more rural than Utah, are the leading GOP states.

  8. Someone spent money on the Bennett campaign. There was a billboard that said “Better Looking than Lincoln – Just Barely” I guess this is all you need to do to get elected in Utah as a Republican. Who cares about issues.

    I did see Bush and Kerry ads but only on cable.

  9. Dan,
    What I should have said is that Utah was the most anti-Gore state in the nation. A smaller percentage voted for Gore in Utah than even Wyoming or Idaho.

  10. Bush got 73% of the two-party vote in Utah, including a whopping 89% in Utah county. He must have gotten better than 90% among active mormons. Kerry’s 11% was down from 14% for Gore in 2000. It makes you understand how mormon democrats might feel a bit beleaguered.

  11. Rob Briggs,

    I’m not as ready as you are to chalk it up to the urban/rural divide, though that is obviously part of it. Rural people are a demographic majority in just five states: Maine, Mississippi, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia. Two of these states, of course, are heavily Democratic, and West Virginia is much closer to parity than Utah/Idaho/Wyoming. So it seems it is not ruralness, per se, which accounts for the Utah/Idaho/Wyoming distinctiveness.

  12. D.: Bennett raised over $2 million for his campaign. He spent some of it.

    Rob Briggs: The problem with the rural v. urban explanation is that Utah is the second most urban state (as measured by percentage of the population living in urban areas) in the Union. (The most urban state is Neveda.) A moments reflection should make this obvious. Someplace like upstate New York or Pennsylvania is more or less evenly populated outside of its main urban centers (NYC and Philly). There are lots of small towns and lots of farm land. In contrast Utah is mainly empty. The vast majority of the population lives in a relatively narrow corridor of land at the base of the Wasatch Mountains and most of those on the Wasatch front live between Provo and Ogden. Comparatively few Utahns live in small towns or rural areas. In other words, Utah gets classified as rural because of its politics, however, at this point the concept of “rural” ceases to do much analytic work and is little more than another label for “conservative.”

  13. I think the bigger distinction, rather than urban and rural, might be fringe vs. centers. Most of the interior US and the South are economically fringe areas–resource exporters and importers of manufactured goods. They were dominated by a) Southern extractive colonial economies or b) Western extractive economies. Even now, the urban areas in these states are fairly low in the hierarchy of US cities–pretty far removed from the powerhouse manufacturing and financial centers. Red state cities like Denver and dallas and Houston are colonial cities that support the supply chain for the industrial NE.

    There’s a lot to be said about the history of the two major parties and their bases, but I think you have to look at the Red extractive colonial economy states vs. Blue Industrial states–and the resulting different distances from global capital within the global and national economy and city system– and the psychologies created within these two different political economies.

  14. Yes, I do need to make some refinements. Rob (the other Rob) may be correct in his economic explanation, but I’m a bit out of my depth there.

    I suppose what I had in mind was that the Dems maintain a majority in the major metropolitan areas of the west coast (San Diego, LA, San Francisco Bay Area, Portland, Seattle-Tacoma) and the east (NYC, Boston, Philly, etc.) while the GOP majorities are everyplace in between, except other major metropolitan areas such as Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, etc.

    It’s hard to fit SLC into this model. Unless we say that SLC is metropolitan but not “major metropolitan.” Still SLC’s commitment to the GOP does seem remarkable.

    Perhaps SLC is like Fresno. Fresno is the 6th largest city in Cal & there are 1 M people in larger Fresno. Yet it remains conservative compared with the other Calif. cities I’ve named. Maybe it’s its agricultural roots, no pun intended.

  15. Rob, I think you’re right that SLC doesn’t really fit your model. Even suburban Orange County and Las Vegas are trending Democratic.

    I suppose we could hypothesize that SLC’s devotion to the GOP has a religious, rather than economic or demographic or geographic, explanation . . .

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