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A Tale of (Two?) States: Demographic Support for Republican Gubernatorial Candidates in MN and WI Strikingly Similar

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The 2006 gubernatorial races in Minnesota and Wisconsin had key similarities: 1-term incumbents defending their seats with job approval rankings hovering around 50%. Pundits viewed seats in both states to be very vulnerable.

Despite these similarities, the candidacies of Republican challenger Mark Green in Wisconsin and GOP incumbent Tim Pawlenty in Minnesota were quite different. Green's platform was much more closely aligned with conservatives and the 'religious right' while Pawlenty flaunted more 'moderate credentials.' However, upon examining exit poll data conducted in each state, the level of support attributed to republican candidates in the Gopher and Badger States were quite striking across several key demographics.

For starters, Green and Pawlenty each received 48% of the white vote in their respective states and nearly an equal level of support from males (50% for Pawlenty, 49% for Green).

Voters in different age groups also spoke with one voice across the two states: Pawlenty and Green received nearly identical support of 18-29 year-olds (41% for Pawlenty, 40% for Green), 45-59 year olds (46% for each) and voters 60 years and older (44% for each). Voters age 30-44 voted for 52% for Pawlenty and 50% for Green.

The GOP gubernatorial candidates fared equally poorly among those earning less than $50,000 per year (36% for Pawlenty, 35% for Green) and fairly well among those earning $50,000 per year or more (51% for Pawlenty, 50% for Green).

Religious voter support for these republican candidates was also quite similar in each state: 53% of Protestants went for Pawlenty and 53% went for Green; Catholics votes 49% for Pawlenty and 48% for Green. Those who attended church more than weekly lent nearly identical support to Pawlenty (69%) and Green (70%).

Pawlenty and Green each received 8% of the Democratic vote in their respective states, while voters who strongly approved of George W. Bush's job performance came out strong for both Pawlenty (93%) and Green (92%).

Pawlenty (34%) and Green (35%) similarly suffered among voters who felt the war in Iraq was extremely important to their vote. Each candidate fared much better among those who stressed terrorism (51% support to each) and the economy (51% support to each) as very important issues for their vote.

While the political climate in Minnesota and Wisconsin is fairly similar overall, it is interesting that republican candidates with noticeably different platforms would fare so similarly among key demographic groups in their respective states.

Previous post: Gubernatorial Approval Ratings Rise Noticeably After Elections
Next post: Wisconsin State Legislative Recount Summary

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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