As we move beyond the primaries, everything we thought we knew about voting patterns in presidential elections is under scrutiny, particularly the accepted wisdom about swing states: those states which have shown a propensity to shift from Republican red to Democrat blue or vice versa. Each of these may only control a handful of Electoral College votes but, in a tight election, that could well be enough to swing the result. This round-up from the Constitution Center's blog draws on various sources to list 11 definite swing states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and five potentials: Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin.
But a recent poll has many thinking it may be time for an unexpected addition to the list: Utah, a GOP stronghold where the last Democratic presidential candidate to find favour was Lyndon Johnson. A few days ago, the Salt Lake Tribune posted this survey of voting intentions which suggests Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tied on 35%. Accompanying commentary quoted Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute at the University of Utah:
For a state where the majority of voters have supported Republican presidential candidates since 1964, the fact that Trump is in a dead heat with Hillary Clinton suggests Utah voters are still very reluctant about a Trump presidency.
We've known since the 23 March Republican caucus that the good folk of Utah don't think much of Trump. He placed third, behind Cruz and Kasich. This poll and others that suggest Trump is not winner in the state show voters haven't changed their minds since the caucus.
Not all are convinced Utah is for turning, however. This post on American Thinker argues the demographics of several recent polls are not suitably representative of the state. It concludes:
Trump's support is probably stable with a healthy advantage over Clinton, and this is likely to hold until the general election.
Of course, 35% is not exactly an overwhelming endorsement for either candidate. The real question is whether enough of the Utah voters who went Republican in 2012 dislike Trump enough to vote Democrat. Here's Buzzfeed's McKay Coppins on why this might be the case:
...while Mormons make up the most reliably Republican religious group in the country, they differ from the party's base in key ways that work against Trump.
On immigration, for example, the hard-line proposals that have rallied Trump's fans — like building a massive wall along the country's southern border to keep immigrants out — are considerably less likely to fire up conservative Latter-day Saints. The LDS church has spent years lobbying for “compassionate” immigration reform. In 2011, church leaders offered a full-throated endorsement of “the Utah Compact,” a state legislative initiative that discouraged deporting otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants and offered a path to residency for families that would be separated by deportation.
The LDS-owned Deseret News went on the front foot back in December, noting that while the Church 'is neutral in regard to party politics and election campaigns it is not neutral in relation to religious freedom'. The article also noted
Mormons and Muslims regularly work together to support marriage, family and religious freedom issues.
Time will tell if strong views on religious freedom are enough to persuade a solidly red state to go blue.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Nancy