PRINCETON, NJ -- Each of the 10 states losing congressional seats as a result of the newly announced 2010 census reapportionment process is politically Democratic, based on a Gallup political identification measure from the first six months of this year. Five of the eight states gaining seats skew Republican.
The results of the decennial census are used to reapportion the 435 House seats assigned to the 50 states. Each state receives a minimum of one congressional seat, with the remaining 385 seats apportioned according to the states' relative population sizes. The results of this process are inherently political. States that gain congressional seats have more power in Congress, and -- because electoral votes are directly related to the number of congressional seats held by each state -- more election clout.
Over the years, relative changes in population across the states have resulted in extraordinary shifts in political power. The traditionally Democratic state of New York, for example, has gone from 45 congressional seats after the 1940 census to 27 seats after the 2010 census. On the other hand, Texas, in recent decades a reliably Republican state, has gone from 21 to 36 seats during the same time frame.
Nine of the 10 states that lost congressional seats as a result of this year's census are in the Northeast or Midwest. The exception is Louisiana, whose population loss at least partly as a result of Hurricane Katrina cost it a seat. Politically, all 10 of these "losing" states skew Democratic in political orientation, based on Gallup's latest state political identification data from January through June of this year. The two states that each lost two seats, Ohio and New York, have a net Democratic political identification of +7 and +19, respectively. The Democratic margin in the other eight losing states ranges from +20 in Massachusetts to +1 in Missouri.
The eight states that gained congressional seats this year present a more mixed political picture. Texas was the big winner, gaining four seats as a result of its extraordinary growth from a population of almost 21 million in 2000 to 25 million in 2010. Texas has a net Democratic party identification of -3, meaning that more Texas adults identify as Republicans than as Democrats. On the other hand, Florida gained two seats, and has a net Democratic identification of +4. Party identification skews Republican in four of the remaining six states, all of which gained one congressional seat, ranging from a -32 net Democratic margin in Utah (Utah is the most Republican state) to -3 in Georgia. Both Nevada and Washington have net positive Democratic party identifications.
The full political implications of congressional seat losses in 10 Democratic states remain to be seen, and will in large part depend on the process of redistricting that will now get underway in each state. It is assumed that Democrats will lose some representation in the House as a net result of this process, but the precise way this will play out is not entirely clear. Similarly, although the majority of the states gaining seats are Republican in orientation, it is not clear whether the newly created House districts in each of those states will necessarily end up with a Republican representative, although it can be assumed that the net number of Republican seats in these states will increase.
The impact of reapportionment on the presidential election process is more straightforward. Traditionally blue states are losing electoral votes, while traditionally red states are gaining them. Various calculations have shown that Barack Obama would still have won the 2008 election even if the electoral votes were divided based on the new census apportionment. But the shift in population between states could give a Republican candidate just enough of an edge to bring victory in a close 2012 presidential race.