Introducing the 2nd most Republican Utah Legislature in 80 years

Utah’s Republicans may have lost the presidency, but they can rejoice in their increased dominance of the state government.

Preliminary results suggest that Republicans picked up 3 seats in the Utah House and 2 in the Utah Senate. The 2013 Utah Legislature will have a 61-14 Republican majority in the Utah House and a 24-5 Republican majority in the Senate.

Those are huge, massive, overwhelming Republican majorities. Let’s look at the past 80 years, since the 1933 Legislature, for some perspective.

  • The 2013 Utah House will be 81.3% Republican. That doesn’t quite match the previous record (85.5% in 1967), but it matches the previous runner-up (81.3% in 1985).
  • The 2013 Utah Senate will be 82.8% Republican. That matches the previous record (82.8% in 1983) and exceeds the previous runner-up (82.1% in 1967).

We’ll have the most Republican Utah Senate (tied with 1983) in 80 years, and the second-most Republican Utah House (tied with 1985) in 80 years.

In total, 81.7% of the 2013 Legislature’s members are Republican, placing the 2013 Legislature in second place behind 1967 (84.5%).

Let’s put these numbers into perspective. This chart shows the percentage of the House that was Republican in each odd-numbered year from 1933 through the upcoming 2013 Legislature. You can see the spikes in 1967 and 1985. Republicans lost lots of ground in the late 1980s and early 1980s, but they have gradually regained it.

Partisanship in the Utah House, 1933-2013

That was the House. Below you’ll see the figure for the Utah Senate. You can see that the share of Senators who are Republican has matched 1983 and exceeded 1967.

Partisanship in the Utah Senate, 1933-2013

Utah’s Republicans may have lost the presidency, but they can rejoice in their increased dominance of the state government.

An historical aside

If you’re curious why my figures go back only to 1933, that’s because Utah had a strange relationship with the national political parties for the first forty years of statehood. After the dissolution of the old People’s Party and Liberal Party, it took Utah’s voters several decades to find a consistent partisan identity.

Below, you can see how erratic the House’s figure would look if I used the entire 1897-2013 data series. (The Senate figure is similar.) From 1897 through 1933, both parties experienced periods of near-unanimous control of the Legislature. Taking the long view, Utah Democrats can console themselves that it could be–and has been–worse.

Partisanship in the Utah House, 1897-2013

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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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2 Responses to Introducing the 2nd most Republican Utah Legislature in 80 years

  1. Daniel B. says:

    The question is…what will the legislation that comes out of this legislature look like? Will having an even more Republican legislature result in more conservative legislation?

    • Adam Brown says:

      The legislature already had veto proof majorities, allowing legislative Republicans to ignore both Democrats and the (Republican) governor.

      I’m not sure that increasing the size of the Republican majority will produce bills that are any more right-leaning, since nothing was stopping Republican legislators from passing whatever they wanted to even before these changes.

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