2020 Election

The State Shifts – Idaho

The state shift will be an ongoing series examining the shift in presidential vote between 2016 and 2020 in each state.

Idaho is the more rural version of their southern neighbor. However, Idaho shifted left during the 2020 cycle by 1.0% and Utah shifted to the right by 2.6%. The state with the second most LDS influence behind only Utah is central to Democrats problems in the state, but Idaho also has growing population. Idaho has grown by around 500,000 citizens since 2000, and Boise is on the verge of flipping to the Democrats as the county shifted left by over 5% from 2016-2020 and Trump’s margin of victory was only 3.9% in Ada County (Boise, Id). Another factor that Idaho shared with Utah is the popularity of third party candidate Evan McMullin during the 2016 cycle. Evan McMullin was the highest third party vote earner during 2016 capturing 6.7%. The third party share of the vote would also fall from 2016 (13.1%) vs 2020 (3.0%).

County Flips

The only county to flip from 2016 to 2020 was Teton county in eastern Idaho. Teton county shifted by the largest margin in Idaho to the left. Trump won Teton County by 0.1% (8 votes) in 2016 and Biden carried the county by 6.5% (414 Votes). Teton County is a tourist county and borders Jackson County Wyoming. The county is growing incredibly fast much like Grand County in Utah, which was the only county to flip in that state. Teton has almost doubled its population from 5,999 (2000) to 11,640 (2018), and seems to be headed to be a dark blue area in eastern Idaho. Victor, Idaho is the most populous city in the county and most people who live there cross the border into Wyoming everyday to work in Jackson Hole.

LDS Factor

The second most LDS state in the country is Idaho, and the electorate resembles such. Much like in Utah the most LDS counties in Idaho were the strongest counties for 2016 third party candidate Evan McMullin. Over a quarter of the residents of Idaho identify as LDS and most residents are centered in the eastern counties of the state with most percentage of members living in Madison County. Madison County is home to Brigham Young Idaho in Rexburg which plays a part in the LDS prevalence in the county. The county is also growing rather quickly and is a sharp contrast to areas such as Ada County (Boise) and Teton County (Victor) in that it is shifting more and more right as the county continues to grow.

The Future

Idaho will most likely follow the way of its southern neighbor. However, there are three key differences to keep in mind when considering the future prospects of Idaho. Idaho is not nearly as educated as Utah, falling on the lower end of the spectrum where Utah is near the top. Another factor to consider is the more rural aspect of the state compared to Utah. The only comparable metro area is Boise and Salt Lake City still has around 500,000 more residents in its metro area. The future will see both areas continue to grow very quickly and both areas and states will continue to gain electoral votes in the process, so it would be wise for Democrats to find a way to connect to these voters. The last factor is LDS membership is about 30% lower in Idaho when compared to Utah. This is encouraging if you are a Democrat, but even with the state trending more left it appears Idaho will not be a swing state for a long time or ever at this point. Idaho’s current partisanship level at the presidential vote is (R+30.7) and Utah (R+20.5), and with Utah growing faster and the LDS population decreasing in metro areas shows that there is potential for Utah to flip in the future and after that Democrats will need to begin preparing for contesting Idaho as well.

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