Internet encyclopedia of all things electoral, Ballotpedia, has published a study analyzing both the partisan makeup of a state based on new criteria — the “Trifecta” of control — as well as the state’s quality of life (the “SQLI”). The lead researcher on the study, Geoff Pallay, has constructed a fascinating set of data that, taken together, reveals some uncomfortable correlations between party control of state government and quality of life for residents.
The study is called, “Who Runs the States,” and its approach puts forth a different measure than tallying up the votes in the most recent election.
A “Trifecta” refers to the control by one political party of the governorship and both state legislative chambers. It’s an alternative to using the state’s most recent voting history as a measure of “redness/blueness,” and seems to capture the actual control of that state. Ballotpedia notes that when using the “Trifecta” measurement as opposed to the other approach, seven states change categories — FL, MI, OH, PA, VA, WI, and WV. I’m a sucker for a nice infographic, and if you’d like to examine their findings in detail, it helps to see their visualization (linked here).
The SQLI uses 19 factors to assess quality of life. From Ballotpedia:
Our index produced year-by-year average rankings, as well as an overall SQLI ranking for each state relative to the other 49 states over the entire course of the study. These rankings allowed us to look at which states were trending better and which were displaying poorer performances during the study period.
The three states that experienced the greatest improvement from 1992 to 2012 were Texas, North Carolina and North Dakota. The three states that saw the biggest decline in their rankings from start to finish were Nevada, Connecticut and Illinois.
Part III of the study will analyze correlation between the SQLI and Trifecta control. But we can see where this is going based on the results published so far. Any guesses as to which party’s Trifecta correlates with higher quality of life?
The graphics below show just what an awkward matchup it becomes. (SQLI of 1 = best). The examples of Illinois and Texas, which show the most stark contrast, reveal the value of the SQLI/Trifecta analysis. Illinois shows bright red (meaning full Republican Trifecta) for 1995 and 1996, and a paler red when there was GOP control but no Trifecta for the years 1992 -2002, not including 95-96. During this time, the SQLI remained under 20, and reached its peak of between 5-9 in the years immediately following red Trifectas. When the bright blue Democrat Trifecta domination kicked off in 2003, the SQLI numbers plummeted.
Conversely, we see in Texas that as the red took over, culminating in Trifecta from 2003 onward, the SQLI soared. Awkward.
We all know Illinois is on the dung heap of states in terms of its corruption, big government, and Chicago problem. But looking to the control of state offices shows just how meaningful our state elections are. Rather than focusing solely on how a state turns out for federal elections, we should look to the influence of state elections. We all know the Republican party has its problems but give me a state governed with a Red Trifecta any day.
Part III of “Who Runs the States” will publish later this summer; the Blue Trifectas ought to be scrambling for cover in anticipation.