Illinois popular vote not always Democratic

Over recent years, much of Illinois’ population has included staunch Democratic Party supporters.

But it hasn’t always been like that.

The party won the Illinois popular vote in the last five elections with nearly two-thirds of the popular vote being Democratic in 2008, according to data from Illinois census reports. This trend started in the 1992 election between George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, when Illinois was still a swing state for the electoral college, and has stayed Democratic since. More than half the Illinois popular vote has been Democratic in every presidential election since then.

The 1992 change in popular vote broke a trend among Illinois voters.

Before then, the last time Democrats won the popular vote  was in 1964, when Lyndon B. Johnson and Barry Goldwater ran for office, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said many factors affect the state’s popular vote. A main one, he said, is Chicago.

“Chicago is a major urban area,” Yepsen said. “It has had a Democratic lean to it for decades …  It just dwarfs the vote in the rest of the state.”

He said Chicago has a large immigrant and minority population that tends to vote Democratic.

Yepsen said another reason Democrats win the state’s popular vote is because of the growing Latino population that has shown a trend to vote Democrat.

“Some of the Republican talk about illegal immigration has been offensive to Latinos,” he said. “And that’s why … Obama has been carrying them by a wide margin in these polls here in the final days (before the election).”

It is important for Illinois Republicans to vote in the presidential election, Yepsen said.

“You could make the same case for a Democratic Texas,” he said. “I don’t want to say anyone’s vote doesn’t matter because it does matter. It matters a lot (especially) in local races.”

Haley Atwell, a senior from Farmer City studying speech communication, said she thinks it is important to vote regardless of party orientation.

“I think every vote matters,” she said. “You never know what will happen.”

Atwell said voting is important because it gives citizens a say in how the government works. She said she thinks her vote matters in every election, but it has a greater effect on local elections.

Yepsen said even though Democrats have the state’s advantage, Republicans can still win elections. He said moderate Republicans have a chance, especially in the suburbs and southern Illinois.

“When Republicans nominate moderate candidates, they can win state races,” he said. “If they nominate canididates who are too conservative on social issues, they’re more likely to lose.”

Yepsen said moderate Republican candidates who are too conservative on social issues lose because they tend to alienate women voters.

Joe Gulick, a senior from Villa Grove studying physiology, said he thinks people should participate more in local elections.

“It’s unfortunate people vote more for the presidential election than local (elections), because their vote would count for more (in local elections),” he said.

Gulick said he thinks people should still vote in the presidential election, but he understands how they can be discouraged because the electoral college gets the final vote.

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