I am a Democrat living in a solidly Republican state. I have tried to research this, but I only get the standard opinion that I should vote no matter what. Same with people I talk to.

Is there any evidence (research, proofs, papers) arguing that my vote is important in the November election? Will it make a difference?

  • 3
    Isn't that how Bush kept getting elected?
    – user7754
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 3:13
  • 10
    What do you mean by "matter"? Commented May 12, 2016 at 3:25
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    @Kristan Paige In the US people can not elect president directly. So if you are living in a solidly Republican state, your voting really does not matter . see also this. +1
    – user 1
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 6:42
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    @Thomo, Basically, no. Though I argue in a comment supporting Philipp's answer that there is a long term point to voting for a party that currently has no hope of winning a state or constituency, the votes, or absence of votes, of Democrats in solidly Republican states made no difference to Bush's election victories. Commented May 12, 2016 at 9:21
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    The fact that you are a Democrat is irrelevant. By the same logic, if you are a Democrat living in a solidly Democrat state your vote still doesn't matter.
    – TTT
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 18:40

9 Answers 9


It might seem like when you belong to the minority in your state then voting does not matter. And when you only think ahead for one election-cycle you are right: In the voting system of the United States it does not matter if a candidate wins a state by 70% or 51%.

But keep in mind that some of the states which are considered red, blue or flip-states today weren't always that way. The political orientation of states can change over the course of several decades. But unless the current minority keeps voting for their party this is not going to happen. While a slight improvement of the vote-percentage of your party will not make any difference in the current election, it sets a signal for future elections that your state drifts further into the direction of political middle-ground and might become more relevant in future elections.

  • 2
    So your voting matters 100 years later; probably.
    – user 1
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 8:22
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    To back up Philipp's answer, a recent example of an apparently fixed political orientation changing drastically in only a few years is the rise of the Scottish National Party. In the 2010 UK general election the SNP won 6 out of 59 Scottish constituencies. In the 2015 UK general election the SNP won 56 out of 59. Its rise in vote share wasn't as spectacular as the number of seats won under the First Past the Post system suggests, but was still a big change in only five years. The rise of the SNP in the more complicated d'Hondt voting system used in the Scottish Parliament was also dramatic Commented May 12, 2016 at 9:13

Besides the point of @Philipp, there is another very important point.

A democracy works if people vote - that's the whole point between a democracy. It's there so that everyone can share their own political belief and to find compromises among them to find the best solution for everyone. In the end, the democracy we today know was introduced to restrict crazy monarchists and emperors who didn't care about the average citizen.

If you know vote, what you absolutely should, you can show your belief and that's what it is about.

For example: I am a politician from a party and my party wins by a 30% or even greater margin. I then look into the poll and see that there are roughly 40% non-voters of the population in my state. I can now conclude that these 40% don't care about politics as they didn't see the need to vote. So I know that I don't need to expect any uproar or unrest from them if I pass a law.

Of the other 60% voters, 70% voted for me and 30% for other parties. This means that I can pass laws as I like because

  • there are 40% non-voters who don't care about politics and mean absolute no threat for me or other parties.
  • from the 60% who voted 70% were for me, it wasn't close at any moment.
  • that I need not to fear any unrest if I pass a law which symbolises my ideology because the other parties are way too weak to hinder me.

Another scenario would be if I won just by one percent - so I got 51% and the others 49%. You may now say: won is won. But it's not. These results show a clear uncertainty among the people in your state as they don't know what is "right". And in this case, I must pass laws that favor them and me because

  • I can expect to lose the next election as the margin could easily close for one side.
  • I must take into account other people's opinion because I haven't clearly won.

Why do you think minorities are such a important word in politics? Blacks, hispanics, religious people, atheist people, racial tension and so on. You must take care of minorities because if you do not, you can expect to be faced with social unrest and eventually violence and this leads into this embarrassing situation that other states or nations become slightly suspicious of your ability to lead your people. The word minorities was invented to protect people who are in a minority so they can't be taken advantage of by the majority.

A democracy means political engagement and this is the whole point of it. The moment you don't vote I can consider that you simply don't care about politics anymore, meaning that you wouldn't necessarily need a democracy. Different ideas and opinions must merge in a democracy or you have no democracy. In order to voice your opinion, you are required to fill your voting sheet.

If you not, I will become the next presidential candidate in your state and burn down democratic ideas and ideals, and don't you dare to even think about revolting - you didn't even vote in the beginning!


It does matter in a variety of ways:

  1. Presidential elections usually coincide with lower level (state, local) elections.

    If you don't go vote, you're excluding yourself from those lower level elections. Those local elections can be far more competitive even in solid-blue/red state; and voting in them can make a difference.

  2. While "who wins" is of course important, and for that, only electoral math matters in USA, the concept of "mandate" still has political meaning, and popular vote is often seen as a proxy for that.

    See the whole "Bush" thing in 2000 elections as an example - he clearly won electorally (even if SCOTUS ruled against him, he'd have won as it was shown later), but people have been challenging that for the past 16 years, in large part because of popular vote.

  3. As another answer alluded to, "solidly Republican/Democrat" is not really a law of nature. Things change, and unless everyone votes, you wouldn't be able to see that change and assess it.

    If 100,000 voters of "not popular" party ALL not vote because it's futile, then it distorts "real" voter sentiment.


Voting has this odd dynamic where when you try to analyze it a personal level, it seems like your vote doesn't matter, but when you analyze it at the collective level, it matters a lot.

Suppose the election of the Democratic candidate, makes a moderate to low difference in your quality of life. If you naively calculate benefit you get from that candidate, and scale it to the odds of your specific vote being the deciding factor, and weigh that against the time you spend going to your polling place and voting, you will calculate that it is not worth your while to vote.

However, if literally all the Democrats in your State vote for the Democratic candidate, there is a surprisingly strong chance that the Democratic candidate will win, and assuming you all get a similar benefit, it will have been collectively worth your while.

The Democratic candidate simply won't win if you, and people like you don't vote. If you and people like you do vote, then even though there's not going to be a 100% chance that you win, you do have a chance

"...I should vote no matter what..."

That's the right idea because otherwise your state will very probably remain solidly Republican which you probably do not want. Your vote could make the current balance of power look less solidly Republican and that in turn can make the difference for the next election.

Also a miracle may occur and the Democrats may take this state by surprise. This miracle would probably have to involve for a lot of people voting for the Democrats and for this you better be one of them.

Maybe many Democratic leaning voters have just given up in your state and if only they would vote, things could look different. If you give up before the race is actually going to take place, you cannot win. That's probably against the spirit of elections.

In short: Voting is a privilege and should always be exercised, even if the gain seems low, because the impact will be above zero. Compared to the cost of voting the value seems reasonable.

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    As a general principle: People should probably look less on the result of polls when deciding to vote or not to vote. Polls can and do deviate from the real election results. Commented May 27, 2016 at 16:20

There is no state more solidly Republican than Texas, and yet the latest polls show that Hillary is only a few points behind Trump in Texas. So, voting for Hillary would make sense.


I hate to say it but your vote probably won't make a huge difference in the results if it's a solidly Republican state.

However, it does contribute to the overall popular vote of a candidate. Since everyone has the mentality that it doesn't make a difference, it makes it very difficult for the state to flip. If everyone in the minority decides to vote, though the candidate might not win, it will increase the popular vote of the candidate.

Example: Utah, 2016

For the record, the only states that hasn't flipped since 1972 are Alaska, D.C., Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

But, in this election, some pundits did say that Utah might be contested, though it's a solid Republican state. So, even if it might not have a large chance of flipping since Trump is still leading, there is still a change of flipping.

Example: North Carolina, 2008

Also, North Carolina is also considered a solid Republican state, but Obama won it in 2008 anyway.

Example: 1992 Presidential Election

Also, in addition to the states listed above, here are some example of states that are considered solid in the past but flipped after the 1992 landslide victory for the Democrats: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont.

At that time, people probably won't thought that their votes counts a lot but it did.


So, in conclusion, I do think that voting matters even if it might not affect this year's election. It might be useful, who knows that Obama would have won North Carolina in 2008?

  • Minnesota has voted for the Democrats in every election since 1972. It and DC were the only ones to vote for Mondale in 1984. Perhaps you meant "starting in" rather than "since" 1972? Minnesota voted for Nixon that year.
    – Brythan
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 13:16

In your situation, not voting can be very detrimental.

In every election, the totals are published, and both politicians and the general public pay attention to those totals.

If a lot of Democrats in your state don't vote, then the assumption will be that there aren't many people in your state who object to the Republican platform. This can hamper fundraising.

On the other hand if every Democrat in your state votes, you might find that the state isn't quite so red after all. Your party will have an easier time organizing and fundraising, if they see that they have a better chance of winning.

By not voting, you make your position even less important.


Since the 2010 elections most states legislatures were in republican hands for the redistricting following the census and gerrymandered the hell out of all those states to maximize republican votes in the future. I will always go to vote but I realize that my vote for a Democratic president will not count.

Analysts can say all they want that it matters in the long run as the winning candidate can decide how much of America supports them by how big a margin they won by. Our current president who was elected with the minority of popular votes could care less about those who are not part of his base as those are the only Americans he feels he must satisfy. So the point about whether your vote for president in a solidly red or blue state doesn't hold water. The only reasonable option is to get rid of the electoral college altogether.

This does not even address how a vote for president in a state with very small populations counts considerably more than a person's vote from a very populous state. Tell me why a vote in Wyoming should be worth more than one from NY or California.

  • 1
    This seems a bit confused. You seem to be asserting that gerrymandering has some effect on the presidential vote. That's only true in two states, Nebraska and Maine. However, that would have swung the vote at most by two and Trump won by more than sixty--more than thirty-four electoral college votes than he actually won. It's also worth noting that a vote in Wyoming is not worth more than one in NY or CA. None of those states were contested.
    – Brythan
    Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 4:27

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