It may come as a shock to non-Kentuckians that registered Democrats actually out-number Republicans in the state, and by a fairly sizable margin. A full 57% of voters in Kentucky are registered as Democrats while only a mere 37% identify as Republicans.
Yet Kentucky is also a reliably “red state”, voting solidly Republican in the last three presidential elections and in most congressional elections.
In previous posts it’s been shown that Kentucky Republicans are very conservative while Kentucky Democrats are liberal on economic matters but rather conservative on social issues. We can observe further evidence of this by taking a look at voting patterns within partisan groups in Kentucky. This data is from the 2004 Voter News Service exit poll, so it’s a little dated, but still useful.
2004 Presidential election:
- KY Democrats: 71% Kerry, 28% Bush
- KY Republicans: 7% Kerry, 92% Bush
2004 Senatorial election:
- KY Democrats: 81% Mongiardo, 18% Bunning
- KY Republicans: 16% Mongiardo, 84% Bunning
There was also a constitutional amendment on the ballot to prohibit homosexual marriage, a good proxy for social ideology:
- KY Democrats: 63% yes, 35% no
- KY Republicans: 88% yes, 11% no
It’s interesting to note that a solid majority of Democrats in Kentucky (63%) voted in favor of traditional marriage in 2004.
The general trend that can be observed is that more Kentucky Democrats vote Republican than Republicans vote for Democrats. The overwhelming vote in favor of traditional marriage by Kentucky Democrats suggests that their social conservatism leads many of them to cross party lines when it comes to national elections, which might help explain why a state full of Democrats produces a solid red state in recent elections.