Nationwide, single member districts hurt Democrats

No matter who controls the Utah Legislature, it will be hard for Democrats to win as many legislative seats in Utah as their popular vote might suggest.

I wrote recently that single member districts hurt the minority party, whatever the minority party might be. (In Utah, that means Democrats.)

Meanwhile, recent research is also showing that single member districts hurt Democrats specifically, whether they are the minority or not. A major reason: Democrats have their support concentrated in urban areas. (Sound familiar?) That means Democrats in Utah face a double whammy–not only are they the minority party, they are also the urban party.

Here’s one writeup of this recent research, posted today at The Monkey Cage (every political scientist’s favorite blog, and the inspiration for our own blog–if you like how we try to connect political science methods to Utah politics here at Utah Data Points, you should definitely follow The Monkey Cage to see a similar approach to national politics). From the post:

States that are heavily urbanized … are more distorted against Democrats than more rural states…. Indeed, urbanization has a negative and significant effect on the difference between seats won by Democrats and expected seats, even after controlling for the party in control of redistricting.

Utah is incredibly urbanized, with 75.4% of the population living in only 4 of 29 counties (Utah, Salt Lake, Davis, Weber), despite these counties containing only 4.4% of the state’s dry land. As a result, no matter who controls the Utah Legislature, it will be hard for Democrats to win as many legislative seats in Utah as their popular vote might suggest.

Update: Edited for clarity.

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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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