Arkansas Presidential PVIs, 1920-2016

Before I get to the presidential analysis, I just wanted to give this little historical tidbit: Arkansas didn’t vote to secede at first in early 1861; it did so after Lincoln ordered their troops to Fort Sumter to stop the rebellion.

Here are the county PVIs going back to 1920, and images of the state PVIs.

Being a Southern state, Arkansas naturally remained solidly in Democratic hands in the first half of the 20th century. The northwest, a Union-supporting region, had been the center of Republican strength in the state. The poor-quality soil of western Arkansas and resultant small numbers of slaves made this part of the state pro-Union/Republican. Soil in the east of the state, in the Arkansas Delta is rich and fertile thanks to sediment deposits from the Mississippi River. This soil was suited for growing cotton and later rice.

Arkansas PVIs, 1920-1948

Later Republicans expanded their strength to the southwest (Texarkana), in the 50s and the northeast (Jonesboro) and Little Rock after the Civil Rights Act passed. This point in history also saw the elections of John Paul Hammerschmidt, the first post-Reconstruction Republican congressman, and Winthrop Rockefeller to the governorship. Rockefeller managed to win with a coalition of “progressive Democrats and newly enfranchised black voters”, though he lost in 1970 to progressive Democratic challenger Dale Bumpers. Rockefeller expected to face the infamous Orval Faubus.

Arkansas PVIs 1952-1972

Rockefeller’s coalition probably explains why Arkansas held out for Democrats as long as it did. The Arkansas Republican Party was weakened by Rockefeller’s death in 1973, and the state went heavily for Jimmy Carter. It did go for Reagan in 1980, but barely. And of course when Bill Clinton ran for President, Arkansas went strongly for him, being the only state to give a majority of its votes to a presidential candidate in 1992.

Arkansas PVIs 1976-1996

The Republican trend picked up after the Clinton years, solidifying the northwest as a Republican stronghold, and also turning north central Arkansas, in the Ozarks, red as well. Southern and eastern Arkansas remained Democratic then, with the bottom falling out in the late 2000s. The Obama years and after saw Republicans solidify their grip on most of the state. Northern Arkansas, in and around Mountain Home, and western Arkansas around Fort Smith are the most Republican parts of the state, giving Republicans 70%+ of the vote. The Democratic areas are in Little Rock, the Mississippi Delta, and Jefferson County (Pine Bluff).

Arkansas PVIs 2000-2016

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9 Comments

  • shamlet June 5, 2017 at 9:14 am

    Nice work again. I would not have guessed that Fort Smith was more Republican than the rural mountain Ozarks pre-Depression. Any ideas why?


    R, MD-7. Process is more important than outcome.

    • GradyDem June 5, 2017 at 10:41 pm

      Even though the Republicans won Fort Smith in presidential races through 1964, most local voters voted for Democrats until about 1952. There’s actually some really interesting political literature on why Fort Smith, in particular, flipped from R to D. The area has historically been one of the least racist areas of Arkansas. Realignment began in 1952 and was mainly a result of Fort Smith’s business community trying to diversify the economy (like what was going on in Sunbelt cities in Texas, California, and Arizona). Fort Smith was one of the hubs of business conservatism through the 1950s and 1960s.

      Anyway, if anyone has time and wants some light reading: http://scholarworks.uark.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1736&context=etd

  • Jon June 5, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    On the images, I’m seeing a second copy of 1920 – 1948; and no images between ’48 and ’76


    45, M, MO-02

    • californianintexas June 6, 2017 at 12:47 am

      I just fixed it. Photobucket sometimes acts weird.


      34, Female, Libertarian, UT-02 (hometown CA-31), theelectionsgeek.com

  • WingNightAlone June 12, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    Amazing Sebastian County has had a Republican PVI for so long. Would love to see someone expound on the other ancient GOP southern bases, too. Neat maps!


    25. Saint John-Rothesay. Financial services sales manager. Blue Tory.

    • californianintexas June 12, 2017 at 4:06 pm

      Thanks! Pro-Union attitudes seem to explain historically GOP Southern areas like NW Arkansas, Winston County, Alabama and East Tennessee.


      34, Female, Libertarian, UT-02 (hometown CA-31), theelectionsgeek.com

      • WingNightAlone June 21, 2017 at 2:09 pm

        Would love to see ~1850 cotton yield per acre per county map of the south


        25. Saint John-Rothesay. Financial services sales manager. Blue Tory.

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