The Most and Least Politically Engaged States

If you're a political junkie, election season in the United States can be something akin to a political Super Bowl. However, for many Americans, elections are a relatively minor event.

If you’re a political junkie, election season in the United States can be something akin to a political Super Bowl. However, for many Americans, elections are a relatively minor event.

Only 58% of American adults voted in the last federal election, in 2012. In the last midterm election, in 2010, voter turnout was only about 38%.

The website WalletHub.com recently looked at turnout rates, political contribution rates, and voter registration rates, among other data, to rank the 50 states in terms of political engagement.

Generally speaking, “blue” states (those that usually elect Democrats), tended to have higher engagement rates. Of the 5 most-engaged states, 4 of the 5 voted for Democrats in each of the last 3 presidential elections.

Likewise, 4 of the 5 least-engaged states voted for Republicans in each of the last 3 presidential elections.

The list does not contain data from this week’s midterm elections, as the list was made prior to the election. We’ve also kept the list to the 50 states, though WalletHub included the District of Columbia. Not surprisingly, DC has a high engagement level.

What follows are the 5 most-engaged, and 5 least-engaged states.

THE MOST POLITICALLY ENGAGED 5. Maine

2012 Youth Turnout: 43%

2012 Senior Turnout: 79%

Maine’s political landscape has been more exciting in recent years, with the election in 2012 of an independent to the US Senate and the re-election this week of a high-profile Republican governor, Paul LePage. The state had the highest voter turnout of any state in 2010. The state voted for President Barack Obama in 2012. Its House delegation is split between the 2 parties.

4. Wisconsin

2012 Youth Turnout: 56%

2012 Senior Turnout: 83%

It’s perhaps not surprising that the Badger State, with 3 hotly contested gubernatorial races in the past 4 years, would rank highly in a list of politically engaged states. Wisconsin had the third-highest overall turnout of any state in the 2012 election, with Obama winning. However, Wisconsin’s governor is a Republican, as is one of its senators. The state elected 5 Republicans in its 8 house races this week.

3. Minnesota

2012 Youth Turnout: 59%

2012 Senior Turnout: 82%

Minnesota had the third-highest rate of voter registration of any state in 2012, and it had the fourth-highest voter turnout that year. The state supported Obama. This week, it somewhat bucked the national trend, with the state’s Democratic governor and US Senator both easily winning re-election. Five of the state’s 8 House seats also went to Democrats in Tuesday’s election.

2. Colorado

2012 Youth Turnout: 56%

2012 Senior Turnout: 75%

Colorado is used to being a high-profile state when election season rolls around. In 2012, the state made news by legalizing recreational marijuana. It also voted narrowly for Obama, helping secure the president a second term. This year, the state hosted one of the closest US Senate races in the nation, with Republican Cory Gardner riding a Republican wave to victory. Meanwhile, a Democrat, John Hickenlooper, won re-election as governor. The state’s House elections were split, with Democrats winning 3 seats and Republicans winning 4.

1. Massachusetts

2012 Youth Turnout: 50%

2012 Senior Turnout: 78%

Massachusetts is often written off as a solidly “blue” state. That’s true, in the sense that registered Democrats far outnumber registered Republicans. But the state’s largest voting bloc are independents, creating the potential for a high degree of political drama. On Tuesday, the state elected a Republican governor. Its entire congressional delegation, however, is Democrats.

THE LEAST POLITICALLY ENGAGED 5. Utah

2012 Youth Turnout: 37%

2012 Senior Turnout: 82%

Utah is one of the reddest states in the nation. Its governor, US senators, and House delegation are all Republicans. The state was in the bottom 5 in voter turnout in 2010 and 2012, and it is 49th in terms of total political contributions per adult. The state supported Mitt Romney in 2012 with a 73% majority.

4. Texas

2012 Youth Turnout: 25%

2012 Senior Turnout: 74%

The Lone Star State had a high-profile race Tuesday, the battle for governor between Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis. But the race turned out to be a snoozer, with Abbott cruising to an easy victory. US Senator John Cornyn also won easily, and Republicans took a majority of the state’s congressional seats. Texas had the fifth-lowest voter turnout in 2012, and the lowest voter turnout of any state in the last midterm elections, in 2010.

3. Hawaii

2012 Youth Turnout: 26%

2012 Senior Turnout: 63%

Hawaii had the second-lowest voter turnout in 2012, and also had the lowest rate of voter registration that year. It had a similarly low turnout rate in 2008, according to WalletHub. The state is the one solidly blue state in the bottom 5, with Democrats sweeping the major elections Tuesday.

2. Oklahoma

2012 Youth Turnout: 27%

2012 Senior Turnout: 73%

Oklahoma elections also aren’t particularly exciting. On Tuesday, the state re-elected its Republican governor, promoted a Republican congressman to a US Senate seat being vacated by a Republican, and elected 5 Republicans to fill its 5 House seats. Perhaps that’s why the state was in the bottom 5 in voter turnout in 2010 and 2012. In 2012, it supported Romney by a 67%-33% margin.

1. West Virginia

2012 Youth Turnout: 23%

2012 Senior Turnout: 62%

West Virginia was historically thought of as a blue state, though it’s become more Republican in recent years. That hasn’t done much to boost voter engagement. The state had the lowest turnout of any state in 2012, when it gave Romney 62% of its votes. The state on Tuesday elected a Republican woman to its open US Senate seat. Its 3 House seats were all won by Republicans.