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How Republican is Iowa?

Politics in Iowa Web (1)

By Christopher W. Larimer, University of Northern Iowa Professor of Political Science.

While one party has unified control of state government in Iowa, the state ranks relatively low among its peers in this distinction. Using data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, the proportion of Democratic-held seats in the legislature (across both chambers) puts Iowa as the 23rd least Democratic state in the country (excluding Nebraska where partisan data is unavailable).

Refining this ranking, among states with Republican governors (again, excluding Nebraska), Iowa ranks 18th out of 25.  Restricting the data even further to states with unified Republican control of state government (where Republicans control both legislative chambers and the governor’s office), Iowa ranks 18th out of 22.  

Consider that in 2009, when Democrats were in their third year of unified control, Democrats held 59 percent of the 150 legislative seats, ranking the state 14th out of the 17 states with unified Democratic control of state government.

Given the political geography and resulting competitiveness of elections in Iowa, it would be unusual to see the state shift toward the tail ends of the abovementioned distributions.  This is not to say that policy coming out the legislature will be any less conservative (or liberal if Democrats have unified control), but rather that the rural-urban divide and vote share distribution in the state likely prevents dominant one-party capture of both legislative chambers.

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