Red-state growth and electoral politics

Kristin Tate of The Hill compares unemployment and economic performance data among the states.

As of mid-2019, every single one of the top 10 most popular governors in the country were Republicans, while eight of the 10 least popular were Democrats. Generally speaking, voters trust Republicans more than they trust Democrats to lead their states.

A deeper look at GOP-led states’ economic success explains why — but beyond the minutiae of simple policy, the bottom line is that electing a Republican often means increased growth and lower unemployment. An even stronger rule bears out the opposite when Democrats control the governor’s mansion.

Indeed, some correlations will always transcend state politics. But what becomes clear is that there is a strong statistical case that electing a Republican governor — even without a matching GOP statehouse — plays a significant role in states’ economic success. Look no further than the last election cycle paired with economic statistics, and this trend soon becomes clear. …

… Among the 20 states with the lowest unemployment rates (three are tied for 20th, so there are 23 states ranking here), 17 had Republican governors prior to 2018. North Dakota, which has a 2.5 percent unemployment rate, prospers in large part because of its Republican leadership’s decision to embrace new hydraulic fracturing technology. …

… Among states whose unemployment rates increased the most last year, Democrats were most likely in charge. In states whose unemployment rates increased more than statistical noise (more than one-tenth of a percent), five of the eight have Democratic governors. Furthermore, among the eight states that saw the sharpest decrease in unemployment (0.5 percent or more) — Alabama, Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia — five have Republican governors. And only New Jersey had a Democrat in charge before 2018.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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