Indiana, the Hoosier State, has been a reliably Republican state in presidential elections for at least the last century, having given its electoral votes to Democratic presidential nominees only four times since 1916. Since the turn of the century the state has gone to a Democratic presidential nominee once: Barack Obama’s first election, which he won by a slim margin of just over 1 point against Republican nominee John McCain. The following presidential election, President Obama lost Indiana by a significant margin of over 10 points to the Republican challenger Mitt Romney. In the 2016 presidential election Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton fared much worse and lost to Republican president Donald Trump by approximately 19 points.
The Indiana delegation started the 21st Century in the 106th Congress with ten members and a 6-4 Republican majority. Their status as a majority was interrupted during the 110th and 111th Congresses, which saw the Democratic members of the delegation hold a 5-4 majority (the Indiana delegation lost a seat after the 107th Congress). The Democratic members’ time as a majority was brief, however, and they have remained in the minority of their state’s delegation since 2011. Today, the Indiana delegation counts nine members with a 7-2 Republican majority. The size of the Indiana delegation has fluctuated over time, but has been on a steady decline since the 1980’s, having lost two seats in that span. Observers note that the 2020 census could result in another contraction due to sluggish population growth compared to other states.
Senate seats since 1980 have been predominantly Republican controlled, with only two Democratic senators serving for a single term each. In that time period there was never a time when both Senate seats were controlled by Democrats. The most recent Democratic candidate to run was Joe Donnelly, an incumbent first elected in 2012. Donnelly lost to Republican Senator Mike Braun by 6 points after having won his first term by over 5 points.
Indiana’s state election results appear as a pendulum, swinging right for a few years before swinging left. The most recent three governors have been Republican, and the three before that Democratic. Going back further you have another three Republicans, preceded by another two Democratic governors. This general pattern has repeated since 1861. Indiana’s current Republican governor Eric Holcomb beat Democratic candidate John R. Gregg by 6 points, 51.4 to 45.4 in 2016. However, these margins are not typical of gubernatorial elections in Indiana. Gregg lost his first gubernatorial against Republican Mike Pence by approximately 3 points. In 2000, Democratic governor Frank O’Bannon was re-elected to his second term over Republican challenger David McIntosh by an impressive 14.9 points.
Rural voters in Indiana tend to be older and more conservative and are also more likely to be affected by fluctuations in international trade. As the country’s 10th largest producer of agricultural commodities and the 4th biggest exporter of soybeans, the Hoosier economy and its rural communities are sensitive to disruptions in trade and commodity prices. Overall, approximately 22 percent of Hoosiers live in rural counties as defined by the U.S. Census.