That’s right: just five states, collectively containing about 2 percent of the American population, have statistically significant pluralities of adults identifying themselves as Republicans. These are the “Mormon Belt” states of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming, plus Nebraska, plus Alaska. By contrast, 35 states are plurality Democratic, and 10 states are too close to call.
There are a few caveats with this Gallup poll, the first being that it polled only adults and not registered voters or likely voters. But the striking things about this is that many people consider themselves a Democrat, but that Democrats have a more difficult time pulling those disparate groups together into a cohesive unit, unlike Republicans.
Thirdly and perhaps most importantly is a point that both Michael Barone and I have raised at various times: one consequence of the Democratic coalition being larger, particularly as it tends to include a miscellany of groups that don’t always see eye-to-eye with one another (African-Americans, Hispanics, coastal liberals, union workers, young voters, etc.), is that it is more difficult to harness the entirety of that coalition in national elections. A Democratic presidential candidate from the North might have trouble appealing to voters in the South. A candidate from the South might have trouble appealing to voters in the North and West. A theoretic “generic Democrat” might have a chance at a rather large majority — but a “generic Democrat” is an abstraction, and most real Democrats will offend the sensibilities of some or another region. In Barack Obama’s case, these were voters in Appalachian and “Highlands” states like West Virginia and Kentucky, states that remain highly Democratic at the state level but which have not recently voted for Northern presidential candidates.