The Election of 2014: The Message of State Ballot Initiatives

| November 14, 2014

American historic documents on a flagThe election of November 4, 2014 saw a wave of Republican victories with new Senators, Representatives, and Governors.  An easy first impression is that Americans accepted the conservative message of the Republicans over the liberal message of the Democrats.  But a look behind the headlines may tell a different story.

Across the nation, Americans voted not just for candidates but on specific ballot issues in their states.  Several issues appeared on a number of state ballots, and the results give a very interesting look at the values in the nation.

Alaska, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Arkansas all gave Republicans victories in the Senate races; and Illinois elected a Republican governor.  The electorate in all five states also voted overwhelming for an increase in the minimum wage – an average of 64% in favor.  Increasing the minimum wage won in every state where it was on the ballot.

Colorado gave Republicans one of their biggest wins in the Senate races; and also decisively rejected a Pro-Life State Constitutional Amendment.   North Dakota voted almost 2 to 1 against another pro-life constitutional amendment stating that life begins at conception.  Illinois voted to require birth control to be covered by prescription drug coverage.

Legalized marijuana won big in Alaska, Oregon, and D.C.; and got a majority vote in Florida but fell just short of the super-majority needed for passage.

Environmental ballot initiatives passed in California and Alaska with huge margins.  Voters in the State of Washington required background checks on all gun purchases.

So the Republicans won big – and so did increasing the minimum wage, advancing pro-choice abortion policies, legalizing marijuana, protecting the environment, and gun control.  How is that possible?

There are two explanations.  First, by far the biggest winner among all State ballot initiatives were those that opposed new taxes.  Americans voted for tax reduction everywhere – in Georgia (74% in favor of capping income tax rates); in North Dakota (76% against imposing taxes for transfer of real property); in Nevada (79% against a tax on businesses to fund education).  The Republican party’s economic message built on lower taxes seemed like the foundation for its success.  On the social issues – income inequality, abortion, marijuana, the environment, and gun control – the country is far more liberal.

The other possible explanation is what some were calling “The Mae West Factor.”  Mae West once said that “when choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.” This year, that was a Republican majority.

Category: Lifestyle