It is well known that Washington, DC is very heavily Democratic. It is more Democratic than any actual state. However, since 1976 or so, DC has usually (though not always) been more Dem-leaning than in the previous election.

The DC two-party Democratic vote went from a low of 78% in Nixon's massive landslide in 1972 to a high of almost 96% when Hillary Clinton won the district, and the popular vote as well. It hovered around 86% in the 80s, 91% or so in the 90s and pre Obama, 93% when Obama won, and 95% in 2016 and 2020.

Why has DC's Dem. margin increased over time? Is it migration of Republicans out, African-Americans leaving the party, or something else?

  • 8
    I think the real question to ask is how DC compares to other major urban areas. Most other urban areas are in states that also have suburbs and rural sections, but DC is only urban. So it's purely "city" in terms of political leaning. So have other major cities been trending equally Democratic, or is DC an outlier? If so, this question can be generalized to most/all cities. If not, why is DC different?
    – Bobson
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 16:37
  • Is DC considered a state? Do you really have two states called Washington 2 thousand miles from each other?
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 16:42
  • Two places with their own electoral votes called Washington which both consistently vote Democratic. It is more than 2,000 miles I believe. Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 16:44
  • 4
    @NeilMeyer - For electoral purposes, DC is a state thanks to the twenty-third amendment. It doesn't have any voting power in Congress, and it's not considered a state for other purposes, but it was explicitly granted a say in Presidental elections.
    – Bobson
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 17:11
  • 5
    Interestingly (and I just learned this), the state of Washington was originally to be named "Columbia", but it was changed because it was too confusing with the District of Columbia (DC). So now it's confused with the one city that makes up DC: Washington. I don't think that rename achieved the intended clarity...
    – Bobson
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 17:15

1 Answer 1


In 1976 there were still residual liberal Republicans from the days when the Republican party was the more liberal and pro-civil rights of the two U.S. major parties, and the Democratic party was the most conservative and anti-civil rights of the major parties.

The parties started to trade places on the civil rights issue in the 1950s during the Civil Rights movement, and the Republican party started to embrace that switch under Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in connection with his "Southern strategy".

Over time, the realignment of the parties on the left-right political spectrum continued and gradually ran its course as pre-realignment politicians in the respective parties either switched parties or retired from public life.

The shift in the D.C. voting patterns reflect this gradual purification of the two major U.S. political parties over time.

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