Is North Dakota One Of The Most Conservative States In America?

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A new Gallup poll has North Dakota ranked as one of the most conservative in America based on how North Dakotans describe themselves:

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By many measures, the state is quite conservative. The presence of just one abortion clinic, just barely across the border from Minnesota in Fargo, speaks to how socially conservative the state is. The dominance of Republicans in elected office, holding every single statewide office as well as a 71-23 advantage over Democrats in the state House and a 33-14 advantage in the state Senate, certainly speaks to a conservative bent too. In 2010 North Dakotans even gave two federal offices long held by Democrats to Republicans, electing Senator John Hoeven and Rep. Rick Berg to replace Byron Dorgan and Earl Pomeroy respectively, and while Berg ultimately failed in moving up to the Senate, Heidi Heitkamp was just barely able to hold on to a Senate seat her party has held easily since the 1960’s.

The trend in North Dakota is most definitely toward Republicans, and I do feel the state is getting more conservative, but I’m not sure the state is as conservative as this poll suggests.

But I’m reminded of something I once heard someone say about Americans liking to describe themselves as “middle class.” You always hear politicians talk about the “middle class.” It’s always “tax cuts for the middle class” and “jobs for the middle class.” They do that because just about everyone in America, from people who might be described as poor to people who might be described as rich, likes to think of themselves as “middle class.” Indeed, a Gallup poll from last year found 86% of Americans liking to describe themselves as “working class,” “upper middle class” or “middle class.”

That’s also true in North Dakota when it comes to ideological descriptions. People here like to think of themselves as conservative, even as they support policies which aren’t very conservative at all. Policies that explode the size of state government. North Dakotans like subsidies and economic interventionism (see: economic development). We have a state-owned bank, and a state-owned grain mill, and not enough political support in the state for getting rid of either.

Heck, it’s hard to get North Dakotans behind cuts to their own taxes. Even as the state runs surpluses measured in the billions despite having doubled the size of government in the last decade, it seems most North Dakotans would still rather leave that money in the government. At least, that’s the conclusion this observer draws given the reticence citizens here have toward anything but the most modest of tax reforms.

I think North Dakotans like to think of themselves as conservatives, even as they’re supporting policies that aren’t very conservative at all.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • Mike

    What is a conservative? I’d like to know what these respondents believe on defining conservative positions. There’s more to being a conservative than opposing abortions or supporting gun rights.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      That’s a fair point. “Conservative” is quite a blanket term.

  • http://flamemeister.com flamemeister

    North Dakotans are very much social conservatives; politically, they’re quite liberal. In my experience they are also among the most politically naive and uninformed in the country. Older Democrats seem to be stuck in the political view inherited from their parents’ and grandparent’s experiences in the 1920s and 1930s. They have an innocent belief in the beneficence of government (not, however, a belief that government should control everything). If they had a clue as to what has happened to the Democrap Party on the national level in recent times they’d crap their pants. There has to be enormous unconscious conflict in the N.D. psyche. All but a couple of my near relatives (North Dakotans all) have been that way, as well as a lot of North Dakotans I know. My parents didn’t catch on to Obama and the Democrat Party until a year into Obama’s first term (two years before they died). Up until then they had firmly believed that the government not only tried to do the right thing, but that it actually did the right thing most of the time.

    • john

      If, by social conservative, you mean wanting to create a religiously controllled goverment, North Dakotans fit the bill. Funny how North Dakotans whine about goverment intrusions and yet they want to force their religious beliefs on others and enact laws based upon those beliefs. Family planning and abortion are two issues that come to mind. Most North Dakotans I’ve met in the 10 years I’ve lived here are really not much different then religious terrorists.

      • http://flamemeister.com flamemeister

        I guess you need to take my friend Ahmed’s daughter out to a gay bar for a couple of drinks so you know what a religious terrorist is.

        • John

          Why not just take a couple of gay native americans to a NDGOP party?

          • http://flamemeister.com flamemeister

            Because that wouldn’t compare. That you suggest that as some sort of comparison completely demonstrates your cluelessness, hanni.

          • John

            Bigotry and hatred, either culturally or religiously based is still hatred. Sorry that hit too close to home for you.

          • http://flamemeister.com flamemeister

            Sorry about your handicap.

          • john

            Another sign of bigotry and ignorance is when you can’t come up with an intelligent argument, just attack the person. Nice chatting with you.

          • http://flamemeister.com flamemeister

            I don’t understand. I’m genuinely sorry about your handicap.

        • slackwarerobert

          That would be those freaks in california who desecrate churches wouldn’t it? So how do you tell if his daughter is under the burka, and those lumps aren’t just a vest of the bad kind of boom boom?

      • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

        As an atheist, i’m against imposing religious views on others, but I don’t see where abortion has much of anything to do with religion. It’s about science.

        Life begins when the sperm fertilizes the egg. That’s a life and should be protected. I believe that not because of my religion, because I have none, but because of my review of the facts.

        But sure, protecting unborn babies is “terrorism.” i’m glad that sort of view isn’t prevalent in North Dakota.

        • ec99

          “Life begins when the sperm fertilizes the egg.”
          Then who is responsible for all those lives passing through and never attaching to the uterine wall?

          • PK

            That’s a ridiculous argument. Who’s ever going to know if a fertilized egg doesn’t attach? How often does that happen? You make it sound like it happens all the time, so we shouldn’t classify life at conception.

          • slackwarerobert

            That would be gravity, and maybe by extension newton.

        • john

          Prolife/anti-abortition has always been a religiously backed movement Rob. Personally I wouldn’t want a child of mine aborted but I don’t try to force my beliefs on anyone else. Why would you want to force yoyr belief on others through legislation, Rob? “Life begins at conception” a teaching of the Catholic church I heard all through my 12 years of catholic school, that is unless you are a Catholic hospital being sued for killing two fetuses. Then the position is the fetus isn’t a human being. Guess you missed that national news story where they used scientfic studies to dispute a fetus being a viable and sustainable life.

          Let’s take another issue then: blue laws. Pushed through by the churchs so folks would go shopping during church services. Now you have to love ND. The bill to relax the law to allow alcohol purchases at 10 AM. Gotta love it. You can buy a beer but can’t purchase a pair of pants.

          • fargomg

            It’s against my religion to go out and kill someone becuase they make my life harder, but we shouldn’t push my religiouse view on another person making it illeagal for them to go kill someone to make their life more easy? Is there really that big of a differance in what constitues life to you? does life start at conception, birth, puberty, adulthood? Were should it become illegal to kill someone?

          • John

            Good question fargomg. I don’t know the answer to that. I know there are quite a few studies on the issue but no conclusive answer. The conclusions depend on who financed the study. I do know that the law of the land says abortion is legal: you remember that pesky little case, Roe v. Wade, so until that changes, I have no right to try and force my beliefs on you or anyone else. The medical definition of life is : a state of living characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction. I was not aware a fetus could reproduce.

          • fargomg

            So your saying that anything that cannot reporduce can be legally killed? so that means we can kill any child up to around age 10 because they are not alive because they cannot reproduce?

          • John

            I’m not saying anything my friend, merely pointing out that medical science can’t agree on when life begins and, like it or not, women at this point in time have the legal right to make that choice.

          • camsaure

            Ever heard of “junk science”? Man made global warming is a good example of that.

          • Dave

            “Junk science” swings both ways. I think there is a lot of truth to the assertion that the results depend on who’s funding the study.

          • slackwarerobert

            So who did any studies to prove they can’t at ten? They never asked me for help, I would have volunteered. Have these teachers been talking now? But you also have to find out when they stop reproducing on the other side. Zygots reproduce cells on a massive scale.

          • fargomg

            ok your right. the youngest person ever that has had a baby is around 5 years old. but most cannot reproduce till atleast 10 years old. so that means even if a kid is 3 he can be aborted becasue he is not alive because he doesnt meet john’s deffinition of life?

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            I was not aware a fetus could reproduce.

            The fetus has the potential to reproduce at a point later in its life cycle, so this is a pretty ridiculous bit of parsing.

            Also, surely you’re aware that the ability to reproduce is a defining characteristic of life, not the defining characteristic. Which is to say, I don’t think you believe men who are sterile or women are in menopause have lost their status as living human beings.

          • John

            Rob, not my definition, but science’s. I was just perusing the web in regards to life beginning at conception and I am amazed at how even science can’t agree on when an embryo evolves into a fetus. Some say 8 weeks, some say 12 weeks. Like I said before, there is no agreement except at the vernacular level. So, it’s beliefs and not facts.

          • slackwarerobert

            They probably have, but I’m not telling them that even if pms isn’t available as an excuse. Just think how much better this country would be if we had aborted pelosi about 20 years ago.

          • slackwarerobert

            How sad our education has become. Have you never heard of “Siamese twins”?

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            Personally I wouldn’t want a child of mine aborted but I don’t try to force my beliefs on anyone else. Why would you want to force yoyr belief on others through legislation, Rob?

            If it were merely about beliefs, John, I wouldn’t want to push them on others. I’m a libertarian. I think people should be able to believe what they want.

            But you’ve got the beliefs vs. facts thing confused here. People who are pro-abortion want to believe the child isn’t a life (unless the mother decides it is). That runs contrary to scientific fact.

            I’m for protecting individuals, even those in the womb.

          • John

            Unfortunately Rob, there are no facts. There is no consensus for when when life begins, either scientific or legal. For every study there is another study that disputes it. So who is right?

          • slackwarerobert

            What ever happened to erring on the side of caution? Till you prove it isn’t life, shouldn’t you protect it.

          • two_amber_lamps

            Why would they do that? Moral relativism and the path of least resistance allows them to justify partial birth abortion, the only question is how much further north can they convince US to move the line?

          • John

            Good point, but do we deny the right not to err on the side of caution to those that choose to see it another way?

          • slackwarerobert

            I don’t if they want to pay for it knock yourself out. Just don’t be coming to the taxpayer with your hand out. It is ELECTIVE surgery, if you don’t have it you will get over it just like the flu.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            Unfortunately Rob, there are no facts. There is no consensus for when when life begins, either scientific or legal.

            That’s just something people say when they want to ignore the facts and focus on their feelings.

            I suppose we could quibble about whether or not life begins at fertilization or implantation, but that’s all rather moot when we’re talking about a life being ended at three months into the gestation, no?

            Are you saying there isn’t a consensus about a three-month-old child in the womb being a life? Because if that’s your argument, i’m going to have to laugh at you.

          • john

            You’re referring to the vernacular definitions of the pro-life movement Rob.

          • Lianne

            I sometimes find it comical when pro-choicers use the ‘when does life really begin’ argument. When a woman says she is pregnant, she never wonders whether she will give birth to a tree, rock, dog, fish, rat, a hunk of cork, etc. We all know that she is talking about life, a human life. Are an egg and sperm sustainable outside the womb? Ah, the test tube baby kindof comes to mind. But, this country spends billions of dollars every year for equipment and medical staff for the sole purpose of sustaining life outside the womb when a premature birth occurs. Thousands of those tiny creatures would not be able to sustain life for more than a few moments if it weren’t for all the technology and expertise.

            We may not know the very second that an egg is fertilized, but we do know that a fertilzed egg means life and in the case of a Homo spaien that means a human life. If we do not revere life, what else is there?
            And just because it was something said in the Catholic church does not mean that it is religous based only.

        • PK

          It’s nice when an atheist refers to actual science, rather than assumptions and theories. It’s absolute fact when an egg is fertilized, a separate individual is created with different DNA and a completely different bio-chemical process is initiated in the mother to grow that child. Thank you for being intellectually honest. Most atheists i’ve encountered aren’t.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            I always get in trouble at the atheist meetings for my refusal to reject everything religious people stand for just because they’re religious.

      • sbark

        But govt funding of Planned Parenthood -whose primary purpose is abortion, govt funding of abortion thru ObaamCare……….are not forcing their views on others?………..its not only forcing their views, its using disenters own money to pay for those views.

        Sit back and think……the right over the years, has only simply reacted to wha the Left has pushed on them in terms of social liberalism, the right is never “pro-active”, everything they do is in reaction to gay rights, abortion, gun control…and that is their problem.
        You have to recognize, the left is an ideology of many golden calf religions—of which all are forced down people oriface of choice.
        Enviro, global warming, abortion, gun control, welfare dependency, govt beyond controls of checks and balances………are all treated as relgions by the left, they would at the drop of a hat protect them over basic Christian principles.
        Check your loyalty to the USA at the door, with the radical left its not even in their top 10 anymore….but they’ll whine they love the USA as a vehicle to advance their golden calf religions of choice.

        • two_amber_lamps

          they love the USA as a vehicle to advance their golden calf religions of choice.

          http://images.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/bullseye-Picture-courtesy-ljworld.com_.jpg

        • John

          So sbark, what you are saying is no one should have freedom of choice? Since religion says gays are outcasts they shouldn’t have the same rights as heterosexuals? So you think basic “Christian principles” trump freedom of choice? That’s not American, that is bigotry and narrow-mindedness at it’s finest. Don’t like folks being gay? Then don’t be gay. don’t believe in abortion, then don’t have one. If “basic Christian principles” are to be forced on everyone then we are no different than the Taliban or Al Qaeda. We become of country of Christian terrorism which is contrary to everything this country stands for.

          • sbark

            Let me know when you get back to our world………for you to put Christian religion in the same group as Islamic or Liberalism ideologies is just beyond comprehension……..
            Sit down and make a list of loyalties in priority…..see where your loyalty to the USA as a historical society comes in…..match it to the reasons you’ve voted Dem’cat for the last few election…..hopefully its in the top 10 yet

  • Drain52

    I’ve long said ND is a politically schizophrenic state.

    • ec99

      Good point. NoDakers have never objected to other states paying into the Federal pot as long as plenty of pork arrived at their door. Conversely, their view on state spending has always been parsimonious. Combine that with a world view from the late 19th century, and you do have a situation no one else in the country will ever understand.

      • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

        I think Governor Dalrymple summed up the attitude perfectly, recently, when he talked about federal Medicaid funding coming in at “no cost” to the state.

        Because federal tax dollars don’t cost us anything, or something.

        • ec99

          Same mind set as the Canadian friend of mine who said he got “free” medical care.

    • camsaure

      I think a lot of ithas to do with a lot of voters reluctance nto do some research and inform themselves. Some even rely on the press or even worse Colbert, family guy etc.

  • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

    Nodaks also would like to be considered “nice.”

    • ec99

      Oh Lord, don’t go there. “Nice” in ND means smiling in someone’s face while delivering a knife to the back.

      • Lianne

        Oh, that IS a statement of truth.

      • weldguy1981

        Very True. Just go out to Dickinson or Williston. The “Christians” in that neck of woods are hypocrites. The oil companies out there are so unorganized(Nabors and Halliburton) and they hire felons and the biggest idiot drunk and druggy losers. Pro’s…right. They say that the ND oil industry is worth working for, which is a lie. You idiots voted for Heidi Heitkamp. Why would you vote for her if you say the oil industry is doing well? The farmers demand more. I was born and raised in Dickinson and everyone’s attitude and mentality has changed. I hate ND. I own a welding business out of Watertown, SD and I will not do business with any company out in ND. I am ultra conservative and agree with fracking and drilling but those companies out there are going to turn around and screw their employees over when they have to pack up and drilling slows down, which it will. ND is going to be full of ghost towns. The only thing that will be left is the snobby gold digger snot nosed so called “Christian” women. Everybody is falling for the scam of the oil industry. Believe me people, there are better places to work and make a damn good living. Poverty and crime is going to hit western ND like a ton of chit when everything slows down. What the heck got into your heads nodaks for voting for Heitkamp? What is the matter with you? You have destroyed your state because you voted in a liberal(wolf) in moderate conservative(sheep) clothing.

  • OldConserv2011

    I like to say that we are a state of schizophrenic conservatives. On the one hand, we are basically very fiscally conservative when it comes to our own individual finances. Very bargain focused, thrifty, and good at putting money in the bank. But we have no qualms and in fact very demandingly insist that our representatives in Washington bring home as much federal money as they can get. We complain about income taxes being too high, but we’re perfectly willing to pay sales taxes, hospitality taxes, and property taxes. So much so in fact that when offered an opportunity to reduce those taxes, we outright reject the opportunity.

    We like our guns and cherish our rich sportsman heritage and will fight to keep our guns, but many of us never give a second thought to the fact that the second amendment was not based on our right to hunt, but on our ability to protect our liberties.

    We’re very morally conservative and attend church and our bible study groups, but we quietly accept the fact that thousands of unborn children are killed each year right here in our own state.

    I think Flamemeister is correct in his assertion that we are naive and uninformed. Most North Dakotans just cannot find it in themselves to suspect that our elected officials may not have the best intentions. They cannot believe that our government would not operate with nobility. And I think that a large part of the blame for that can be placed squarely in the laps of three home grown North Dakota boys who spent the last three decades in Washington supporting a corrupt and decaying party and its agenda while coming home during the recesses to tell us how they are fighting for truth, justice, and the North Dakota way. Of course a fair share of blame also has to be placed on the local media who long ago sold out their responsibility to be fair and objective journalists for the prospect to be the cheerleaders of liberalism.

  • yy4u2

    As a state employee for almost 15 years, I have seen this type of behavior all too often of people claiming to be conservative and then, like recently, prove to be just another govt indoctrinated dolt. Case in point, a recent ‘certification’ that isn’t needed but was mentioned by someone at the Federal level as being ‘a good idea’, was grabbed by someone in ND govt. They tied it to getting some sort of raise if taken and passed. To my knowledge, only one company administers it and those that took the test here in ND didn’t get to see their grade but only told if they passed or failed. At best I can say it is based on some sort of curve. It raised my blood pressure as it does absolutely nothing for the tax payer but cost them more money. We are doing the same work so no greater knowledge was gained. Why is it the coworkers that took and passed it still ask me questions on how something works? Aren’t you certified now? Why do they say things like how mundane the job and tasks are still? Mundane enough to require certification? Why are they consistently not nearly as productive but get a raise for doing the same work and much less than myself? It is one huge farce and has caused even more of rift in our work environment. I’ve been quite open with my supervisor and director who think we need another position when those that we have aren’t filled with quality people. Thanks Big Govt ND.

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