House Minority Leader Brian Newberry had some simple wisdom when the Providence Journal asked him why Democrats do better than Republicans in Rhode Island.
“The answer to that is easy: there’s a lot more Democrats than Republicans,” he was quoted as saying.
Of course this is true. The Journal then went on to surmise that this is because “Rhode Island is often called the bluest of blue states, and numbers from the secretary of state’s office bear that out.”
This, on the other hand, is not true … nor is there any way for Rhode Island voting rolls to bear out a comparison with the rest of the country. Nevertheless, the ProJo goes on to cite the data: “As of Jan. 24, the state had 295,971 registered Democrats and 74,959 registered Republicans. Also in the mix: 1,311 voters aligned with the Moderate Party, and a whopping 358,637 who were undeclared.”
A Gallup study from last year (the ProJo used 2012 election data) actually compared the 50 states and found that seven of them and the District of Columbia all have higher percentages of Democrats and/or those who lean that way. We are tied with Vermont at 47.8 percent.
Where Rhode Island is almost unmatched, on the other hand, is in the low number of Republicans and those leaning that way. Only Hawaii has fewer Republicans than Rhode Island, according to Gallup. Hawaii has 25.4 percent Republicans/lean rights and RI has 27.5 percent.
In other words, it’s not that Rhode Island isn’t the bluest of the blue states, it’s that we are the second least red state. Said yet another way, when compared to other states we’re more anti-Republican than we are pro-Democrat.
No state north of the old Mason Dixon line has higher percentage of Republicans living there than the national average, which is 40%. Conservative ideology just isn’t all that popular around here anymore. We can and should debate why – and I’m more than happy to participate in that debate! – but we should not pretend that Democrats dominate here like no where else in the nation.
In fact, the Gallup data indicates 24.7 percent of Rhode Islanders identify themselves as liberals. That’s almost as many as define themselves as either Republican or leaning that way. This shouldn’t surprise those who follow State House politics closely as there are far more progressive Democrats than any kind of Republican in either chamber.