Not all states are red or blue: in search of the purple states

William JordanUS Elections Editor
July 03, 2015, 1:13 PM UTC

There are eight states Republicans and Democrats both like (and five that neither do)

As YouGov recently revealed, the least liked state in the union, and the only one seen more favorably than unfavorably, is New Jersey. On the other end of the spectrum, Hawaii is the most well liked state of all, by some stretch. Yet as with most issues in the US, the overall favorability of the states papers over some large differences among certain groups, particularly those with partisan affiliations.

In fact, the gap between the number of Republicans who like a state and the number of Democrats who do is often quite large. The graphic below maps out the differences across the country.

The map should look immediately familiar to someone who knows how the country votes in national elections. Compare it with the map below, which shows the relative support for Republican and Democratic candidates in the five presidential elections between 1992 and 2008. 

Predictably, the most popular states with Republicans are the generally ones where the most Republicans live, and vice versa for Democrats. The state with the biggest advantage among Republicans is Texas, the nation’s most populous state that reliably votes for Republican presidential candidates. Similarly, the most populous blue state is California, and it is most disproportionately popular with Democrats.

What stand out are the exceptions to this rule: Wisconsin, a reliably blue state, is much more popular with Republicans (+30 R), possibly due to their Republican Governor Scott Walker’s public battles with labor unions. Iowa and some other purple states in the Upper Midwest are also significantly more popular with Republicans than Democrats.

Looking at it another way, there are some surprising places where Republicans and Democrats agree. Though there are 37 states where either a majority of Republicans or a majority of Democrats have a favorable opinion (and not both), there are eight that most of both groups like, including reliably blue states like Hawaii and Vermont, one reliably red state, Alaska, and genuine purple states like Virginia and Florida.

There is another group – also a mix of blue states (New Jersey and Michigan), red states (Nebraska) and purple states (Nevada) – that are favorable with neither the majority of Republicans nor the majority of Democrats.

Democrats are less favorable towards the states generally. The median favorable rating given by Democrats to all 50 states is 47%, and only 21 are viewed favorably by more than half of Democrats. Among Republicans the median rating is 57% and 34 get mostly favorable opinions.

Yet it’s the third political group – independents – who are least enamored with the 50 states of the union. Their median rating is 46% with only 14 states over 50%. 

This article has been updated to show most Republicans have a favorable opinion of Arkansas.

Full poll results can be found here and full state rankings here.