Moment of Indiana History

Bellwether Blues…and Reds

When it comes to predicting the outcome of a presidential election, one might consult Indiana history.  More specifically, the voting record of Vigo County, Indiana, which has been the most consistent bellwether of American presidential voting trends for more than a century.  From 1892 through 2004, Vigo County picked the winner every election, except 1908 and 1952.  Perhaps even more remarkably, from 1960 through 2004, Vigo County was the only county or state to have returned results that not only mirrored the nation’s selection, but reflected virtually the same margin of difference between candidates as the popular national vote.

Sociologists have attributed the parallel to Vigo County’s particular demographic mix.  With its solid working class base combined with university-affiliated residents, and its distribution of rural and urban populations, the area once known as the “Crossroads of America” comprises a variety among its electorate that approximates the national picture.  There is a strong tradition of Democratic voting in the county, flavored by a tendency for conservatism on social issues.

From 1960 through 1996, both Delaware and Missouri served as indicators of the presidential vote, as did eight counties around the nation, in places as geographically diverse as Washington State and Arkansas.  In more recent years, however, only Vigo County, Indiana has retained its status as presidential election bellwether, suggesting that  an old adage be retooled. “As Vigo County goes,” one might say, “so goes the nation.”

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