Which counties have moved most to the right?

Every county (except Kane) became more Republican between 1992 and 2008. Many became WAY more Republican.

In our last post, we looked at Utah’s continuing movement toward the GOP during the 2000s. Today, we’ll look to see which specific counties moved the most toward the GOP.

We calculated a partisanship score for each county by averaging together its presidential vote with its gubernatorial vote for every election since 1980. In 2008, we find that no county voted less than 57% Republican when its presidential and gubernatorial votes were averaged together in this manner.

Every county is a Republican county

That means there are no longer any Democratic-majority counties in Utah. That’s a change from 1992, when two counties gave a clear majority of their votes to Democrats (Carbon and Summit), and another four counties gave just shy of a majority (between 45 and 50%) of their votes to Democrats (Grand, Salt Lake, San Juan, and Tooele).

That was 1992. In 2008, no county voted less than 57% Republican. Put differently, no county gave more than 43% of its vote to Democrats.

Almost every county has moved right

Between 1992 and 2008, only Kane County decreased its share of Republican voters, dropping slightly from 81% Republican to 77% Republican. Every other county increased its share of Republican voters.

The most striking change was in Carbon County, which made a huge shift from voting only 34% Republican in 1992 to 61% in 2008. That’s a 27 percentage point shift.

Even Salt Lake County moved to the right. In fact, the county’s average Republican vote share in presidential and gubernatorial elections has increased from 54% in 1992 to 60% in 2008.

In the table below, I have listed GOP support in 1992 and 2008 for Utah’s 10 most populous counties. The table is sorted by the right-most column, which shows how many percentage points each county moved to the right between 1992 and 2008.

County 1992 GOP 2008 GOP Change
Utah 82% 85% +3
Iron 81 85 +3
Washington 79 82 +3
Cache 76 81 +5
Davis 72 78 +6
Salt Lake 54 60 +6
Box Elder 79 86 +7
Summit 49 57 +8
Weber 61 72 +11
Tooele 55 73 +18

The 10 biggest movements toward the GOP

Carbon County’s massive 27 point movement toward the GOP doesn’t show up in the preceding table, since Carbon County is not one of the 10 most populous counties. Carbon County’s change is especially striking given its history with mining and union sentiment. Many of the largest movements toward the GOP occurred in less populated places like Carbon County. In the table below, I list the ten largest partisan shifts in descending order. Most of these counties are among Utah’s least populated counties.

County 1992 GOP 2008 GOP Change
Carbon 34% 61% +27
Emery 60 79 +19
Tooele 55 73 +18
Daggett 59 76 +17
Beaver 64 81 +17
Juab 64 80 +16
Uintah 72 87 +15
Duchesne 73 87 +14
Morgan 73 87 +14
Rich 76 88 +12

Every county (except Kane) became more Republican between 1992 and 2008. Many became WAY more Republican. This rightward trend across the state has important implications for this year’s round of redistricting. The state’s GOP dominance is spread throughout the state, which will make it relatively easy for the legislature to draw four Republican-majority districts. This is especially true if the legislature blends urban and rural areas in each district, since rural areas have made some of the biggest shifts toward the GOP.

Now for a technical note. Our methodology assumes that 2008 was not an unusually Republican year in Utah when compared to other recent years. From looking at the statewide partisanship figures we posted yesterday, it appears that this assumption is sound. To double check, though, we also conducted a modified version of this analysis. Details are in the footnote at the end of this sentence.1

We’ve now written two posts on partisanship. Last time, we looked at the overall statewide trend toward the GOP. Today, we looked at the county-level trend. In our next post, we’ll look at how partisan shifts might affect Utah’s 75 state House districts.

This is part of a series of posts about redistricting in Utah. For an overview, read the introductory post. My talented research assistant, Robert Richards, contributed heavily to this series.

Possibly related posts:

About Adam Brown

Adam Brown is an assistant professor of political science at Brigham Young University and a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. You can learn more about him at his website.
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One Response to Which counties have moved most to the right?

  1. Keith Seegmiller says:

    The redistricting committee is meeting in Cedar City Sat. AM. Many Iron County residents are very concerned that we may lose representation to Washington County. It’s very possible that they could control two senate seats to our none and as many as five house seats to our one. At risk is legislative support of SUU vs. DSC. Many Washington county’s politically powerful are determined to make DSC into a University to rival (or even subsume) SUU. From a taxpayer’s perspective, having two competing universities within fifty miles of each other and drawing from the population of the whole southwestern third of the state (with well under 300,000 residents) is insane. The duplication cost of administration, facilities and programs is unnecessary and unwarranted.

    How can we propose state legislative boundaries that will ensure that Iron County and SUU will retain at least one vote in each house for the majority of the next decade?

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