Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Part Three, Description of the data
The two major political parties claim that their policies will lead to better outcomes. What does the data show?
At Ballotpedia, we explored these issues in a three-part study, Who Runs the States.
This page contains the section of Part Three pertaining to the Description of the data.
Description of the data
Over the period studied, states under Democratic trifectas had an average ranking of 30.67 and states with Republican trifectas had an average ranking of 22, indicating a higher quality of life according to the SQLI metric. States with divided governments had an average ranking of 24.67. This pattern held consistent over the period studied. Comparing the first half of the period (years 1992-2001) with the second half (years 2002-2012), states with Republican trifectas consistently outperformed states with divided governments. Both groups consistently outperformed states with Democratic trifectas.
The following graph shows the trend of average SQLI rankings for each category of government—Democratic trifecta, divided government, and Republican trifecta. We see from 1992 to 2006, Democratic trifectas showed lower performance when compared to divided governments and Republican trifectas. Divided government performed slightly worse than Republican trifectas. We see that between 2007 and 2010, Democratic trifectas outperformed divided governments. Republican trifectas continued to perform best over this period.
As indicated in the introduction, we examined which political parties typically governed the states that enjoyed the greatest quality of life. Based on our findings, states were more likely to have a better quality of life result under Republican trifectas. The second-best SQLI results were in divided governments, followed by Democratic trifectas.
States with Democratic trifectas made up a disproportionately large share of the 10 lowest-performing states—36 percent as compared to their 22 percent share of all states. States with Republican trifectas included in the bottom 10 were less than a third the size of their 26 percent share of all states.
Among the 10 states that performed best on the SQLI, the majority had divided governments. In these states, neither party generally maintained control of government. States governed by divided governments accounted for 68 percent of the states that ranked in the top 10 during the 21 years of our study. The proportion of states with divided governments among the bottom 10 states was only slightly higher than their 53.5 percent share of all states. For comparison, states governed by Republican trifectas and Democratic trifectas accounted for 23 and 9 percent, respectively, of the top rankings.
In our analysis, we sought examples of states where voters regularly kept the same party in power. The only state that did not change party control was Utah, which maintained a Republican trifecta over the entire 21 year period. South Dakota was the second-most Republican-leaning state; it had a Republican trifecta for 19 years and a divided government for two years. North Dakota and Idaho each had Republican trifecta for 18 years and a divided government for three years.
We found two states that kept the same party in control despite performing consistently poorly in SQLI. The first case was West Virginia, which consistently elected a Democrat trifecta despite having the second-worst SQLI. The second case was South Carolina, which consistently elected Republican trifecta despite being the sixth-worst state in the SQLI.
We also looked for states that saw significant changes in SQLI ranking over time. One example is Connecticut, which had a better average SQLI rank during divided years (6.6) than Democratic trifecta years (26.0). The Constitution State enjoyed remarkably high performance compared to other states between the years between 1992 and 2004, with an average ranking of ranking of 3.1. Things changed beginning in 2005. The state’s SQLI rank fell to 10 and then slid consistently downward. The state had an average ranking of 14.3 during the years 2005 to 2010. In 2011, voters in the state brought a Democratic trifecta to power, and the state’s SQLI ranking fell even further—from 19 in 2011 to 33 in 2012. This follows our general finding that Democratic trifectas under-perform divided governments.
Illinois proves to be a similar case. This state had a worse SQLI rank during years of Democratic trifecta (27.1) than during its years of divided government (11.8) and Republican trifecta (11.5). Illinois voters have kept the same party in control despite seeing consistently worse social and economic outcomes since 2005.
The state that saw the most significant change in ranking correlated with change in political control was Texas. Texas had an average SQLI rank of 36.67 under Democratic trifectas; 18 under Republican trifectas, and 33.6 under divided governments.
Wisconsin is an interesting example of a state that saw significant change in both SQLI and in party control over the period studied. Wisconsin received a higher average SQLI ranking under Republican trifectas (10) than under Democratic trifectas (21).
Iowa, whose average SQLI ranking during Republican trifectas was 12, received an average SQLI ranking of 3.5 under Democratic trifectas, a change of 70.83%. Colorado also received a higher average SQLI ranking under Democratic trifectas (3.25) than under Republican trifectas (5.5), a change of 40.9%.
No state held a Democratic trifecta over the entire 21-year period. The most Democratic-leaning states were West Virginia and Maryland; both held Democratic trifectas for 17 years and divided governments for 4 years. North Carolina had a Democratic trifecta for 14 years and divided government for 7 years.
The only state that held a divided government over the entire studied period was Minnesota. The second-longest period of divided government was in Nevada, with 20 years of divided government and 1 year of Democratic trifecta. New York and Connecticut held divided government for 19 years and a Democratic trifecta for 2 years.
- Ballotpedia:Who runs the states
- Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Part One: State Partisanship
- Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Part Two: State Quality of life Index (SQLI)
- Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Part Three: Overlaying State Partisanship and State Quality of Life (SQLI)
- Part 1 Full report PDF
- Part 2 Full report PDF
- Part 3 Full report PDF
- State government trifectas