Following up on that, I thought it would be interesting to look at the results from individual states. The map below shows how often each state made the "right" choice in the 15 elections being considered. (The "right" choices were Jefferson in 1796 and 1800; Jackson in 1824 and 1828; Van Buren in 1836, 1840, and 1848; Fillmore in 1856; Cleveland in 1888 and 1892; the Roosevelts in 1912 and 1932; Kennedy in 1960; Reagan in 1980; and, although it pains me to say it, Clinton in 1992. Not all of these were good presidents, just better than the available alternatives. Millard Fillmore, for example, is universally considered to have been a terrible president; but James Buchanan, against whom he was running in 1856, is universally considered to have been even worse.)
|See the data here|
A few trends are immediately obvious. The Bible Belt comes out looking pretty good, for example. But for me the most striking result is the abysmal performance of New England. The five states with the worst track record are five of the six New England States! Vermont is dead last (choosing the best candidate only 13% of the time), followed by Maine (23%), and then Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island (all 27%). Connecticut did a bit better (40%), but is still red rather than green. A pattern like that can't be a coincidence. Also note that the Mormon Corridor, despite being conservative/religious like the Bible Belt, is red -- because the early Mormons who settled that region were mostly transplants from New England! Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were both born in Vermont.
I have no real idea what the problem with New Englanders is. I lived in New Hampshire for five years and am quite fond of the region, but apparently democracy just isn't their strong suit. The God who made New Hampshire taunted the lofty land with clueless voters.
UPDATE: I've corrected some minor errors in my data, but nothing of substance has changed. Nebraska is now tied with Rhode Island for the third-worst position, the only non-New England state to do so badly.