Year, VT voting for winning party nationally, party candidate elected VT governor
2006, No, R
2008, No, R
2010, No, D
2012, Yes, D
2014, No, D
2016, No, R
2018, No, R
2020, No, R

Why does Vermont have such a bad track record of picking the party that is more popular at the top of the ticket nationally? The midterms, are of course House elections.

I feel this is notable because Vermont is an "elastic" state, so it would make sense for it to move with the nation. But 2008 2016 and 2018 do not make sense to me. 2018 in particular doesn't make sense because there was a 6.5 pp swing towards the Democrats and the Dem did worse despite Sanders (not exactly a Democrat but a leftist nevertheless) being on the ballot.

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    Could you add what the party the governor is for those years? Also why does the governor following the national popular party matter? – Joe W Oct 20 '20 at 14:53
  • That would not make much sense, but I'll do it anyway. – Number File Oct 20 '20 at 14:54
  • Because winning the control of the house, senate and white house doesn't mean that it is the most popular party nationally. At best you can look at total number of votes for each party and determining which one received the most amount of votes. – Joe W Oct 20 '20 at 14:57
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    Is the question why Vermont voters didn't follow the votes of the country as a whole or why the results of Vermont's elections for state-level officials don't match the results of the ones for federal-level officials? – eyeballfrog Oct 20 '20 at 16:01
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    Elastic state per 538 is one that tends to move with the rest of the country. I am adding this because I know what Numberfile is saying – Michael Mormon Oct 20 '20 at 20:31

Why does Vermont have such a bad track record of picking the party that is more popular at the top of the ticket nationally?

What a bizarre idea. State elections do not have to match any national trend or everyone would elect the same party controlling every State. The purpose of a State election is to choose a candidate who is most popular with only the people of that State (or who can vote in that election).

That candidate does not even have to be a member of any party. Wikipedia has a list of governors who were independents.

Deciding who should run your State is not at all the same as who should run the US. Different jobs with different priorities. National priorities do not necessarily match State ones. You want a governor who will fight for your state, not one who will automatically back the national leader. Maybe the question should be why this doesn't happen more often, not why Vermont does it.

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    They are actually starting to and are doing so more and more. And by they I mean state level elections in most states. New England is a big exception though there is a trend in that direction as well but it's not 100% clear. example: Senate and President 2016. For governor, median split ticket hit new low in 2018. – Number File Oct 20 '20 at 16:10
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    @NumberFile I appreciate the accepted answer vote, however I am bound to point out, in all fairness, that SE users are encouraged to wait 24 hours or so to accept an answer as a better one may turn up. – StephenG Oct 20 '20 at 16:25
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    Okay. Thanks for the advice – Number File Oct 20 '20 at 16:31
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    @NumberFile no, that's really mistaken. If you look at a national map, you'll see very clear geographic division in the support for the leading two parties. New England is an example, but far from the only one; really a bit more than half of the total population is in areas leaning towards the Democratic party, but in recent years a hair more than half of the individual states have at state level leaned Republican. Hence you get things like the popular vote and House going one way, but the by-state Senate and Electoral College going the other. – Chris Stratton Oct 20 '20 at 20:06

It has to do with race, party ID, and tradition.

More so than other parts of New England, Vermont is overwhelmingly white and more irreligious. Those two things together make the state more elastic and willing to vote for members of the other party. It may fly in the face of the concept of elasticity on the surface, but the principle of being able to vote for the other party is there. Nonwhite voters, on the other hand, are overwhelmingly Democratic, and those who directly identify as such do not split their tickets. However. That is why mostly African-American districts are inelastic, as well as many urban districts. (The same thing also happens in whiter urban districts to a lesser degree, but that's a topic for another time.)

Vermont has a high concentration of independents. It even has an independent senator, who broke Duverger's law in the 1990s. That adds to the elasticity. That allows them to not only outperform the national party but to break above 50%. There is also a myth (sort of) of moderate Republicans which Susan Collins sort of debunks.

As someone else said, VT switched parties a lot for governors. That adds to the elasticity. They are possibly believers in the false idea that Democrats and Republicans are the same. This party switching happens at the right times to inversely align and that is the ultimate reason.

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