One-party monopolies were common throughout most of the 20th century. The most recent decade shows a dramatic rebound that favors Republicans.
A new study documents both the long-standing frequency and dramatic resurgence of one-party monopolies in American state politics.
The study, led by political scientists Janine Parry and Andrew Dowdle of the University of Arkansas, relies on many indicators of a state’s party profile. Specifically, with the help of several students over the past five years, they created a dataset that includes the party breakdown of the state legislature, congressional delegation, and popular votes for governor and president for each state between 1935 and 2020.
Using these values for a given year, or over decades, yields a score between zero and one. Arkansas, for example, consistently had a score above 0.6, making it solidly Democratic until 2009. By 2014, it had fallen to 0.28. Today, it is 0.18, which makes it one of the most Republican in the country.
While Arkansas’ shift was unusually rapid, the authors note, its preference for a one-party monopoly is not unique. Most states have heavily favored one of the two major parties for at least a century. Among the most uniform and longest-lasting of these monopolies are Kansas, South Dakota, and Wyoming on the Republican side, and Hawaii, Maryland, and Rhode Island on the Democratic side.
After signs of greater two-party competition in the 1990s, one-party monopolies have rebounded, Parry said.
“Most observers of American politics perceive this as a time of intense competition among the major parties for control of our governing institutions and, consequently, the direction of public policy,” Parry said. “That’s not at all what’s happening in the elections that matter most: the states.”
The study appears in the spring volume of Politics and State Policy Quarterly.
This announcement from Parry and Dowdle’s post is especially timely: The last day to register to vote in the 2022 Arkansas election is today, Tuesday, October 11. If you have not yet registered to vote, visit your local county clerk, public library. , disability agency, military recruiting office or DMV/office of revenue to register today. If you are unsure of your registration status, you can check it at www.voterview.org.