The state governments and their laws can vary greatly across the United States. But have you ever wondered which pair of US states have the most different politics?
According to the State Similarity Index‘s politics category, New York and Idaho are the states with the least similar politics. The analysis reveals stark contrasts in their government’s laws, civil protections, court procedures, taxation, and spending, as well as the party preferences of their residents. California and South Carolina are another pair of states that exhibit striking differences in their politics. These comparisons highlight the large variation and diversity of the political landscape in the United States. However, keep in mind politics can change over time and this references data from 2020.
New York & Idaho
Few states can rival the stark contrast in politics between New York and Idaho. This is because New York has a highly diverse, largely urban population, while Idaho is predominantly white with many people living in rural areas. The Democratic Party is much more popular in New York, while the Republican Party is dominant in Idaho.
Since Ronald Reagan, New Yorkers have consistently voted for Democratic presidential candidates, while people in Idaho have voted for Republican presidential candidates. In addition, the political composition of their state legislatures and courts is far different, since New York’s has mostly Democrats and Idaho’s has mostly Republicans. The preferences of people in the same political party even differ between these states. In 2016, Ted Cruz was preferred over Donald Trump in Idaho. Furthermore, New York preferred Hillary Clinton twice, while Idaho preferred Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.
Compared to New York, Idaho has more permissive gun laws. Idaho has constitutional carry laws, which allow individuals to carry concealed firearms without a permit, and has relatively lenient regulations on the sale, possession, and use of firearms. In contrast, New York has more restrictive gun laws, including requirements for permits for both concealed and open carry, and bans on certain types of firearms.
Idaho has strict marijuana laws and does not allow for medical or recreational use of marijuana. Possession of even small amounts is a misdemeanor crime. In contrast, New York has legalized marijuana for recreational use and the sale of marijuana is regulated. In general, Idaho also has more restrictions on the sale of alcohol.
Furthermore, Idaho has more restrictive abortion laws, including mandatory waiting periods, parental notification requirements, and limitations on late-term abortions. New York, on the other hand, has more permissive abortion laws that protect the right to choose an abortion and provide greater access to reproductive health services.
New York has more comprehensive LGBTQ+ rights protections compared to Idaho. New York has laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Idaho, on the other hand, has limited legal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals. Another difference is that marriage to first cousins is legal in New York, unlike in Idaho.
Compared to Idaho, New York has adopted more immigrant-friendly policies . It has policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. The state also provides driver’s licenses and in-state college tuition for undocumented immigrants. In contrast, Idaho’s laws require local law enforcement agencies to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
Idaho has the death penalty and carries out executions, while New York abolished the death penalty in 2007 and does not have the death penalty as a legal punishment. Judges in New York also have more flexible sentencing guidelines than in Idaho which has many mandatory minimums. In addition, corporal punishment is still allowed in Idaho’s schools, while it is specifically banned in New York.
New York has a much higher minimum wage compared to Idaho. New York has implemented a phased-in approach to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour, while Idaho’s minimum wage is nearly half that amount since it is aligned with the federal minimum wage. However, it is important to note that the cost of living is much higher in New York as well. Idaho also has more restrictive eligibility criteria and lower benefit levels for low-income families with children.
In general, Idaho has a lower overall amount of taxation in comparison with New York. However, Idaho’s government also spends far less per capita on its citizens as well. Unlike New York, Idaho has not expanded its Medicaid program, resulting in more limited coverage for low-income individuals and families.
California & South Carolina
California and South Carolina are another pair of states that have big differences in their politics. This is because South Carolina has more conservative voters, while Californians are well known for their liberal values. As a result, the Democratic Party is dominant in California, while the Republican Party is in charge in South Carolina.
There are significant differences in the political landscape of their state legislatures and courts. In fact the Republican Party has had a super majority in South Carolina’s legislature, while the Democratic Party has had a super majority in California’s legislature. Furthermore, South Carolina has not had a Democratic senator since 2005, while California has not had a Republican senator since 1992.
When it comes to guns, South Carolina has more permissive laws compared to California. South Carolina has relatively lenient regulations on the sale, possession, and use of firearms, and does not require a permit for open carry. In contrast, California has more restrictive gun laws, including requirements for permits for both concealed and open carry, and bans on certain types of firearms.
California has more progressive marijuana laws compared to South Carolina. California has legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use. South Carolina has stricter marijuana laws. It does not allow recreational use, but since 2014 low-THC cannabis oil has been allowed for certain debilitating medical situations.
In terms of LGBTQ+ rights, California has more comprehensive protections compared to South Carolina. California has laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations, and has been at the forefront of LGBTQ+ rights movements. In contrast, South Carolina has limited legal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Another notable difference is immigration policies. California has adopted more immigrant-friendly policies, such as limiting cooperation with federal immigration enforcement and providing driver’s licenses and in-state college tuition for undocumented immigrants. South Carolina has laws that allow local law enforcement officers to ask about immigration status during routine stops or arrests if there is reasonable suspicion of unlawful presence.
South Carolina is a right-to-work state, which means that employees are not required to join or pay dues to a labor union as a condition of employment. Employees in California can be required to join or pay dues to a labor union as a condition of employment in unionized workplaces. Furthermore, public employees in South Carolina do not have collective bargaining rights, unlike in California. California’s minimum wage is much higher than South Carolina’s as well.
Their elections are run differently as well. South Carolina requires voters to show a photo ID, while California does not even require an ID. In many situations they only need the voter’s signature. Furthermore, in California, the state uses an unusual “top-two” primary system. In this system, all candidates for a particular office, regardless of their political party affiliation, appear on the same primary ballot, therefore it is possible for two Democrats to face each other in the general election.
In California, the use of ballot measures is relatively common, and voters have the opportunity to directly vote on a wide range of issues, including laws related to taxes, social policies, and governance. In contrast, South Carolina has more limited use of referendums. A referendum is typically required for certain constitutional amendments, but it is less commonly used compared to California.
The way these states select state supreme court justices and trial judges is different as well. In South Carolina, the legislature appoints judges from a list of candidates provided by a judicial nominating commission. For each term, the legislature also decides whether they should remain in office. In contrast, California’s state supreme court justices and trial judges are elected based on a non-partisan vote and are subject to a vote after each of their terms.
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