Opening up the West

In the 2006 election, Democrats made significant gains throughout the country, primarily in the Northeast and Midwest, but including some seats in the South. Among the most promising developments for Democrats was their ability to encroach on the long-held Republican stronghold in the interior West. These victories include John Tester’s win in Montana, two congressional conversions in Arizona and one in Colorado, as well as the on-going political success of Democratic Governors in red states such as Janet Napolitano (AZ), Brian Schweitzer (MT) and Dave Freudenthal (WY).

Democracy Corps and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner recently completed research in the interior west region of the country (New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming) in order to better understand dramatic political reversals in this once-deep Red part of the country. This research includes over 1,207 interviews with likely voters, including an oversample of 290 Hispanic voters and six focus groups in Arizona, Montana and Wyoming. This first wave of research starts by focusing less on politics and more on how voters live their lives. This research reveals an electorate that works hard, lives close the land, and often struggles in a lower wage economy. The Republicans’ failure to meet the specific priorities of this region contributed to their decline in 2006 and continues to undermine them to this day.

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