Governors, presidents and how we vote

David Weissman
  • Past 5 presidential elections: states voted for the same party as their governor 58% of the time.
  • Poll shows Clinton leading Trump by 11 percentage points in Pennsylvania.
  • Pennsylvania has voted for the presidential candidate of the same party as the governor in 2 of the past 5 elections.

Speaking ahead of Hillary Clinton's arrival in Harrisburg following the Democratic National Convention, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf explained why he believes Pennsylvania will remain a blue state for the seventh consecutive presidential election.

Gov. Tom Wolf addresses the crowd gathered for a Hillary Clinton campaign rally outside Broad Street Market on Friday, July 29, 2016, in Harrisburg. Amanda J. Cain photo

"A lot of people have been asking me whether Hillary is going to win Pennsylvania," he said to the crowd at the July 29 rally. "I tell them I won running on mostly the same platforms."

But how predictive is the political party of a state's governor for the presidential candidate the residents end up supporting?

According to information compiled by The York Dispatch about the past five presidential elections, states have supported the candidate in the same party as their governor just 58 percent of the time.

Pennsylvania, which has voted along the governor's party line in just two of the past five elections, is one of 22 states that voted against its governor's party more often than with it. North Carolina and Rhode Island have voted against their governors' parties in all five presidential elections.

G. Terry Madonna, a pollster who founded what is now called the Franklin & Marshall College Poll, said midterm elections often comprise a much different electorate, with young and minority voters historically voting more frequently during presidential elections.

He also suggested the 58 percent outcome is higher than it used to be.

"In 1984, one of every two voters split their ticket (voting for politicians from multiple parties)," Madonna said. "In 2012, only one of five did."

Madonna said an ideological shift within the two major political parties has created a larger divide among voters.

Delving deeper into the compiled statistics, states have increased their likelihood of supporting the presidential candidate in the same party as their governor from 48 percent in 1996 to 64 percent in 2008 and 2012.

Nine states — Delaware, Florida, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington — have sided with their governor's party in each of the past five elections.

If each state voted with its governor's party in November, Republican candidate Donald Trump would win the Electoral College vote 329-206 over Clinton.

However, as Madonna explained, the consistent controversies surrounding both major parties' candidates this year have left historical precedent's influence in doubt.

Multiple GOP governors, including Ohio's John Kasich and Maryland's Larry Hogan, have publicly refused to support Trump.

This is the first election in history with both candidates "underwater," Madonna said, referring to polls showing Trump and Clinton are both more unpopular than popular.

Clinton was able to win her primary's nomination because of a weak field, while Trump was able to defeat a strong field of GOP candidates by dominating media coverage and building an early lead, Madonna said.

Madonna also said that although nearly 70 percent of Americans polled believe the country is moving in the wrong direction, Clinton — "the consummate insider" — is polling ahead of Trump — "the consummate outsider," Madonna said.

Franklin & Marshall's most recent poll, released Aug. 4, shows Clinton ahead of Trump by 11 percentage points.

During Trump's recent rally at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, he suggested voters might be embarrassed to admit to pollsters that they're voting for him, referencing pre-primary polls in multiple states.

Madonna said he's "not there with that" claim as a pollster.

— Reach David Weissman at or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.