Politics: Why do Idahoans vote Republican?

by Judy Ferro

Recently, a Democrat opined that the Republican party was so far removed from its base this year that they’d be losing a big chunk of Idaho voters.

I’m not holding my breath. As my daughter pointed out, Democrats were saying that before she left the state 20 years ago.

Like many other Idaho Democrats, I was once a Republican. Over time, we came to realize we didn’t fit in that party. There is no question today’s Republican leaders have little in common with Governors Bob Smylie and Phil Batt. .

For some time, polls have shown that a majority of voters—and many Republicans—side with Democrats on most major issues. Recent polls by Dan Jones & Associates for the Idaho Political Weekly indicate that the trend continues.

Thirty-five percent (35%) of Idaho Republicans felt that the 2016 legislature should have increased funding for education MORE than the 7.6% that it did (May 15,2016).

Forty-nine percent (49%) of Idaho Republicans believed the Legislature should have expanded Medicaid to the 78,000 working Idahoans who don’t make enough to qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (May 22, 2016).

Fifty-six percent (56%) of Idaho Republicans believed that the minimum wage should be raised to $10 an hour (June 7, 2015). .

Sixty-five percent (65%) of Idaho Republicans favored increasing background checks on gun buyers (January 10, 2016).

Jones & Associates’ figures on abortion did not indicate political party, but they did find that only 36% of Idahoans believed Roe vs. Wade should be overturned (December 15, 2015).

It is probable, then, that a third or more of rank-and-file Republicans in Idaho do not agree with the party leadership.

That still leaves taxes. Interestingly, a majority of Idaho Republicans said a no-new-taxes pledge did not make them more likely to vote for a candidate; nearly 25% said a pledge would make them LESS likely to support a candidate and 30% said it would not make a difference. Democrats were MORE likely to support tax cuts than Republicans (68 to 58%) (March 20, 2016).

Religion is the next factor people point to. In January the Pew Research Institute released figures based on exit polls that indicate the party preferences of people who associate with various religious groups. Democrats had the support from majorities in thirteen denominations, including American Baptists, Presbyterians (U.S.A.), Lutheran, Catholic, and Episcopalian; Unitarian Universalists and the United Church of Christ are among the party’s strongest supporters.

Republicans are supported by the majorities in ten denominations. Seven of these are evangelical, but Mormons are the strongest supporters with fully 70% supporting the Republicans. I’ve worked with enough Democratic Mormons to be surprised at that figure.

It’s even harder to accept that figure can hold through this year’s elections. This year’s Republican presidential candidate espouses no Mormon values. He is being sued by hundreds of contractors, employees, and customers who feel he has cheated them. He is a womanizer, says things he cannot believe, and bullies and insults minorities, women, veterans and the handicapped.

Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential candidate and a Mormon, has called Trump a phony and a fraud. He has said that “dishonesty is Donald Trump’s hallmark” and denounced the “bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics.”

Still, Trump is predicted to win Idaho by 15% and Utah by 10%.

Can voters really choose party loyalty over issues and religious beliefs they hold dear?

Polls indicate they have.