Skip to main content

After spending the bulk of my time so far looking at areas where Democrats have been met with their fair share of struggles, I figured it was an appropriate time for a little pick me up - today I am releasing data for Hawaii, the strongest Obama state in 2008 and where Democrats took back the Governor's office in 2010.  

Democrats hold huge majorities in both chambers, controlling a solid 16% of the House and 4% of the Senate.  Continued Democratic dominance in these races is tremendously problematic for Republicans, as it threatens to completely cut off their bench for higher office.

That might seem like a fairly obvious conclusion in all states - where wouldn't Democrats want to hold down every seat?  But it is especially relevant in Hawaii, which has displayed dramatically different results than any of the other states the LDI project has looked at so far.  While Hawaiian Democrats possess a 58-42 edge on the generic ballot, the state is ideologically far more homogenous than any other state we've surveyed thus far

The above graph is a plot of the five states released thus far.  The x-axis is a measurement of where the district falls in comparison to others in the state. For example, 0% is the most Democratic district, 100% the most Republican, 50% in the middle.  The y-axis displays how Democratic and Republican those districts are.  Keep in mind that this graph is not comparing the political preference of allt he states, but rather the distribution of political preferences within each state.  So D+0 for each state does not mean that each party has the same chance of winning that seat in each state, but rather it means that every D+0 district is the average result for that respective state.

What the graph shows is a remarkably small range in political preference for Hawaiians compared to the other states released thus far.  The range between the most Democratic and most Republican seats is only 42 - compare that to Maine (80) or Ohio (88), and the contrast is clear.  Hawaii's legislature is smaller, which may lead to less partisan districts as they have to cover more ground, but even in Nebraska, where the Unicameral is roughly the same size, the range is a whopping 130.

What this means for Hawaii Democrats is that voter satisfaction can shift fairly quickly, based on the popularity of those in office.  There simply aren't Democratic or Republican strongholds that the party can count on regardless of the candidate or climate. These small shifts in favorability can translate into large shifts in electoral preference - I believe this was the case in Governor Linda Lingle's continued success.  Gov. Lingle didn't manage to turnout Conservative pockets to overcome the institutional strength of the Democratic party - across the state she simply flipped voters, and then maintained popularity through re-election.  But you can't take advantage of those situations unless you have elected officials who are ready to move up through the ranks - and one look at the Senate composition should signal that the Republican bench is dwindling.  


It's still hard to pull much out of the Hawaii data, given the lack of states to compare it against (we will have more blue states coming in the next week).  But one thing I am curious about is that it would seem to me that Hawaii may provide a case where competitive primaries can have a seriously negative effect on a party's general election prospects.

My rationale is as follows: the Hawaiian electorate is unusually homogenous, at least in comparison to what I've seen so far.  Thus, Room for large ideological differences amongst the electorate is much smaller.  Unlike in Maine, where there was a huge contrast between the kind of Democrats that would win in Portland as opposed to the rest of the state, there are no big chasms in preference.  Thus, this leaves less room in a primary for exchange about different ideas and policies, and forces them to become more personal affairs.  The 2002 Ed Case- Mazie Hirono primary seems to be an example of this - while Mr. Case is fairly well known online as a sort of conservative boogeyman of Hawaii Democratic politics, that primary campaign was not about ideology, but was much more about the perceived "old boy network" that Mr. Case tried to cast then-Lieutenant Governor Hirono as a member.  Gov. Lingle, still popular from her 1998 campaign, didn't face the same kind of character attacks, and the result was an almost universal swing towards Republicans.

Either way, the results from Hawaii are very different than what we've come across thus far.  It makes me more excited to looking at some other states with smaller legislatures, such as Alaska, to see if size is playing a role in shrinking the partisan range.  Have a pet theory on why the difference exists, or something else jumping out at you?  Let me know in the comments.

Originally posted to Matt Breuer on Fri Jun 03, 2011 at 01:27 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  I wonder how those Democrats in HI (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    can hold those R+10 or higher districts. That is what I'm curious about. You'd think that the HI GOP would fare better in those races.

    Yes, HI is probably as Democratic as MA; but it has elected Republicans in the past to office like Hiram Fong, Linda Lingle, and Patria Saiki (I think that that's her name). The right Republican can win in HI. Regan carried it in 1984 and Bush II got 45% of the vote there. Nixon won it in 1972. So Republicans can occasionally win in HI.  

  •  Typo? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY, Yosef 52, Nulwee, Matt Z
    Democrats hold huge majorities in both chambers, controlling a solid 16% of the House and 4% of the Senate.

    Not sure if you meant Republicans or left off some numbers there.

  •  surprised no one's posted this yet (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg, davybaby

    but i just couldn't resist!

    hope springs eternal and DAMN is she getting tired!

    by alguien on Fri Jun 03, 2011 at 02:06:14 PM PDT

  •  Culturally diverse (11+ / 0-)

    I think it's wonderful, and interesting, that the most "racially" diverse state and the only one that has never had a "racial" majority (and I'm speaking to you, California), is so electorally homogenous.  Can it be that exposure to different cultures makes us more tolerant of other?

  •  Wow, keep them coming! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nulwee, KingofSpades, MichaelNY, gabjoh

    Proud member of the Indiana Democratic Party from IN-9. Was hoosierdem on SSP, but that username was already taken here :(

    by drhoosierdem on Fri Jun 03, 2011 at 02:40:42 PM PDT

  •  dunno how we got to 24/25 in the Senate (5+ / 0-)

    Republicans lost the seat of their own retiring minority leader (District 25) this past election to a Dem political newcomer.  It was not even considered to be competitive for them, and they lost it by a sizable amount.  I think the Hawaii GOP is simply the most incompetent political party in the whole country.  This is a state Bush got 45% in.

    •  To top it off... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Skaje, gabjoh, MichaelNY, Matt Z

      When you have a party that consistently performs as poorly as Hawaii's Republican Party, it makes it harder to entice strong candidates to run for office, or if they do run under that party's banner. Seeing how socially conservative some of the Democrats in Hawaii's state legislature are (or other Democratic figures like Mufi Hannemann are), what's the incentive to run as a Republican?

      MI-06 (Home), MI-02 (College), Male, 20

      by koolbens on Fri Jun 03, 2011 at 09:33:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  In 2006 (6+ / 0-)

        Republicans only elected two members to the legislature (Sen. Mike Gabbard and Rep. Karen Awana) by capturing Dem-held seats.  Shortly after their elections though, Gabbard and Awana both changed parties and joined the Democrats, despite being conservative and moderate respectively.  They simply said they couldn't get anything done in the minority.

        In 2008, a Republican state senator retired and not a single Republican even filed to try to replace him.  A Democrat won that open seat (District 3) with 100% of the vote, seriously.  And half of the Dem incumbents went unchallenged that year as well.

        Just a pathetic performance by Republicans the past four elections in Hawaii, everything has been downhill for them since Lingle got elected in 2002.

  •  Why Bush did so well in 2004 (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nulwee, MichaelNY, gabjoh, nirbama, Matt Z

    There is a huge military presence on Oahu - the island went about 48% for Bush while the other islands all went around 60% Kerry, the norm.  Obama did so well because he's from Hawaii, of course.

    Another interesting fact:  Hawaii has never voted to unseat an incumbent governor or senator.

  •  Comedian Frank Delima sums up (0+ / 0-)

    the ethnic diversity and tolerance of Hawaii:

    "There's nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don't have any clout on Capitol Hill." Barack Obama, April 13, 2011.

    by surfermom on Fri Jun 03, 2011 at 10:07:04 PM PDT

  •  As the Japanese knew..... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY, nirbama

    ...there is a humongous military presence in Hawaii. There are also a fair amount of ridiculously rich people and the LDS presence is very large. They own the Polynesian Cultural Center and have a presence on every single island. Not everyone in these three groups is Republican, of course. But they tend to be more conservative and if the issues are right (e.g., gay marriage) they can be a huge influence and swing things.

    But by and large, the Democrats are still in control. And as everyone but 60% of Republicans on the mainland know, OBAMA WAS BORN IN HAWAII. He has a huge advantage and goes there when he can, although each time he does they act like he is going someplace exotic, rather than home.

    On an island, you know, you have to learn to get a long with people because you will see them again.  And people who get their hackles up stick out in laid back Hawaii.

    I sometimes wonder if that isn't part of why our President rarely takes the bait. Michelle says that if you want to understand Barack, don't go to Chicago. Go to Hawaii.

    I didn't intend the above as a factual statement.

    by Bensdad on Fri Jun 03, 2011 at 10:52:23 PM PDT

  •  Hawaii is also one of the places that has not (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mimi, MichaelNY, Zack from the SFV

    gone too far from its labor union roots. We had a plantation system long after the South, within living memory. It clearly divided the population by ethnicity and socioeconomics. People rioted, went of strike, and died tying to get basic respect and fair pay from plantation owners (who also controlled the government). For the most part, workers won and developed an appreciation for the value of unionism. As of now, several generations have lived decent lives, bought homes, sent kids to college, moved in to public sector jobs, and they vote Democratic.
    The concern is that those days are done. People aren't so sure about their futures; there aren't enough good jobs so people are leaving the state. There is a tremendous amount of pressure just to maintain a very basic lifestyle. There are more and more white folks moving over here and they tend to be the richer, older ones
    Religion used to be more low key but the loud, mega churches are more and more popular. These sort of things often lead to-gasp!-Republicanism. So are our days as a Democratic paradise numbered? Possibly.

  •  hard to get a feel for HI political "zeitgeist" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I have heard about some racial tensions (well packaged in soft-spoken words though and rarely admitted) and I just wonder about the income gap among its inhabitants.

    Somebody upstream said there is the white/military group leaning more republican and conservative (aren't there also military and veterans, who are not necessarily white and republicans there as well?), the Japanese leaning more democrat, but still being conservative democrats, how about the ethnic Hawaiians, who I can't imagine loving much of the white rich investors in Hawaiian real estate? How about the influence of Mormons (which ethnicity on Hawaii is affiliated mostly with the LDS community?), how about the many "out and down people, who seek their mental serenity in Hawaii" ?

    Hawaii is so democratic that you think that most Republicans must be democratic and act as benign trojan horses.

    Well, as you can see, I don't understand Hawaii, but I admit that the diary didn't help me understand it better either.

    May be it's just because I am a bit ...slow?  

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site