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Gallup Ranks Red And Blue States

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It sure seems like everything gets a ranking these days - the best college basketball teams, the top-grossing movies, the five best burger joints in your town, the greatest double-play combinations of the modern era - on and on. So why not politics? Well, Gallup, as in the Gallup Poll, has taken its mountains of data collected in poll after poll and compiled a partisan ranking of states, Democratic and Republican. NPR's Don Gonyea looks at the results, both red and blue.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Sometimes all you need is one distinct voice, one short piece of tape to illustrate a point. So here's a clue as to the most Democratic state in the U.S.

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PRESIDENT JOHN F KENNEDY: I have spent many days in nearly every state, and I come back to Boston, Mass., with a strong feeling of confidence...

GONYEA: Clearly that's John F. Kennedy, not yet president, in Boston on the eve of his election in 1960. Massachusetts, a Democratic stronghold then, remains one now. According to Gallup, it's the most Democratic state in America.

Now to the GOP list, another iconic voice who recalled starting his political career in the state Gallup says is the most Republican.

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VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: When you're a member of the House of Representatives, the speaker of the House calls on you not by name, but according to your state. And for better than a decade, I've proudly answered to the title of the gentleman from Wyoming.

GONYEA: That, of course, is former Vice President Dick Cheney. Both of these states are reliably predictable in national elections. Massachusetts has gone Republican just twice in more than five decades. As for Wyoming, it's been solidly Republican for the past 12 presidential contests. The last Democrat Wyoming liked was LBJ in 1964. Frank Newport is the editor-in-chief of Gallup, the polling organization. He says they ask people which party they identify with, and they push them to decide.

FRANK NEWPORT: Are you a Democrat, Republican or Independent? We ask the Independents, do they lean one way or the other?

GONYEA: He says the results are more reflective of the current mood of the populous than, say, voter registration numbers in individual states.

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GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: New York, the great Empire State, the home of the world champions, New York Yankees.

GONYEA: The most Democratic states list after Massachusetts goes, in order, Maryland, Rhode Island, New York and Vermont. The top five Republican states after Wyoming are Utah, Idaho, South Dakota and Montana.

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SANDRA BULLOCK: The great state of Montana, the land of the big sky, the last best place on the planet.

GONYEA: And if you're wondering where a deep, deep red state like Mississippi lands, it may not crack the top 10 GOP list because of history. Enough conservatives there may still self-identify as Democrats even though they'd never vote for one for president. In a lot of states, party ID alone can be an unreliable indicator of that state's politics. Newport says what's most interesting is movement. Gallup polling on this question shows a shift since 2008, which was a great year for Democrats.

NEWPORT: The 2008 - George W. Bush on the ropes, Barack Obama elected - was one of the most Democratic years that we've seen in 25 years in terms of party ID. In fact, our overall Democratic advantage, when we just put all the states together, was about 30 points. And then every year since then, that's declined.

GONYEA: By last year, that big margin had declined to about a 3-point Democratic advantage. Newport warns don't use that trend line to predict who will do well in 2016. A good candidate for either side can move the needle on Gallup's party ID, and the election is a long ways away. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
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