Why Is Idaho so Conservative?

I recently came across a good method for discovering which stereotypes and questions exist about a certain place: just allow Google to auto-complete the phrase, “Why is [place] so _____?” I’ve discovered that people tend to wonder why Ohio is so important, why South Korea is so weird, and why Georgia is so humid. And the number one question for our current home: “Why is Idaho so… conservative?”

Idaho is one of the reddest states in our very divided nation. In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney beat Obama by over 34 points. The last time Idaho voted for a Democrat was in 1964 when it joined the rest of the nation in thumping Barry Goldwater. Idaho is currently one of only three states with all-Republican Congressmen, Senators and a Governor (Kansas and Wyoming are the others).

I’m no political scientist, and my observations aren’t in any way definitive or even very informed, but if someone were to ask me, “Hey, you spent some time there. So why is Idaho so conservative?”, I’d have three big answers:

1) Idahoans are loners. This was the last American state to be explored by settlers, and has a history in individualist industries like mining and farming. It’s underpopulated, vastly wild (over 60% of Idaho is public land), hard-to-reach and isolated. And Idahoans like it that way. Whether it’s Fish & Game agents regulating hunting, the Feds closing brothels, or Uncle Sam taking away their hard-earned cash, Idahoans tend to mistrust anything coming out of Washington DC. Far-away legislators don’t have any idea what living here is all about, and so Idahoans want to limit federal power to the fullest extent possible… a legitimate mind-set which aligns them nicely with Republicans.

2) Idahoans are white. Overwhelmingly. In much of the state, spotting a black or Asian face on the streets is an event. And in recent American political contests, white people have tended to vote Republican.

3) Mormons. A lot of Mormons live in Idaho, having emigrated up from Utah. Some cities in the southeastern part of the state are over 97% Mormon. And those are guaranteed Republican votes.

Jürgen and I are unrepentant liberals, but I never felt unwelcome in Idaho. Locals truly embrace the live-and-let-live attitude, and we never encountered any unpleasant situations, even when conversations veered toward politics or our homosexuality. If any of the people we met disapproved of us, our views or our lifestyle, they politely kept quiet and treated us as equals. Idaho might be extremely conservative, but as long as you respect the Golden Rule, it’s also an extremely easy place to get along.

This Post Has 41 Comments

  1. dee

    Fortunately for us “Blue” people in the “Red” state Idahoans there is Ada County (Boise) and Blaine County (Sun Valley/Ketchum). Both these areas have a higher-than-their-neighbors degree of education and consistently vote and live less conservatively minded. The few democrats in the legislature come from these areas.

    1. Dr. William Pierce

      I’m glad you understand the difference between intelligence and education, and the connection between education (indoctrination) and liberalism. Good for you.

      1. Fred

        That’s right.

  2. Carolyn Walpole

    Thank you for spelling it out so succinctly. As a “Blue Girl in a Red State” I still believe it is important for my vote to be counted. Maybe, just maybe…there will come a time when more people will take a look around and recognize that the continuation of selfish exploitation of Idaho’s beautiful lands and its exceptional wildlife, will surely mean the end of that which makes Idaho the special place it still is.

  3. Tony

    Conservative yes but largely Libertarian.

  4. Angela

    My BF’s Idaho family is comprised of Seventh Day Adventist fans of the Tea Party (he is a non-religious Republican). While they have accepted this Canadian as one of their own and I love them dearly, it is best we avoid the topics of politics and social issues.

  5. Jeff

    I took your advice and tried it for Ohio…and I found out that people wonder why Ohio is so important and why Ohio is so popular.  I’m cool with that…but I think the election season may have something to do with it.

  6. 30Traveler

    hehe that’s funny. I tried it for New Zealand (where I’m from) and got: expensive, cold, awesome, good at rugby. The actual top results were about: passive, boring, lifeless, expensive, and racist. Not so awesome!

  7. CMartel2

    Individual liberty and personal accountability are highly valued here.  That’s part of it.  You’ll also find that in smaller towns, people have roles they play, be it in the local community, church or school.  To have the government play these roles simply isn’t fitting.  If someone if your church is sick, the community rallies around them.  That’s the job of the community and the faithful; not the government.  It’s a different way of life from urban centers.  And I’ve lived in major urban centers from London to Southern California to Atlanta.  I’ve also lived in small farming towns, Amish country, southern small towns, and the mountain west.  You can really just go down the list. People don’t move to a place like Idaho to have their lives micromanaged by those who claim to know better than the populace.  Some say Idahoans are isolated, which is true, but the interaction that occurs in something like checking out a the store doesn’t necessarily take on the superficial, rushed experience you see in a more urban area.  There’s less social isolation and more of interest in who people are.It always amuses me to hear liberals speak about being overly educated and taking on a holier-than-thou attitude towards conservatives when this doesn’t really hold true–statistically or otherwise.  Doctors–of which I am one–went for Romney by over 20%.  The press won’t ever report that because it runs against the Obamacare meme, but that’s the way it is. 

    1. Bob

      You got that right! Idaho is one of the last places that (overall) treasures freedom, kindness and traditional values. If you consider yourself a progressive/socialist, perhaps you will be happier amongst a population that wishes to legislate the lives of others. Idaho can be very welcoming, but if you threaten freedom, or want to bring California values and politics, you will want to live somewhere else. Idaho remains a retreat from pop culture and values. Please don’t bring your politics. Bring freedom and traditonal values, and respect for the Constitution (Yes that includes the Second Amendment), you will be welcomed.

    2. Fred

      That’s right, every word.

  8. zdv

    It’s a little misleading to conflate conservativism with Republicanism.  While Idaho has always been pretty conservative, it regularly elected politicians from both parties up until the 1980s.  The next time the political parties realign themselves, it wouldn’t surprise me if things change regarding how Idaho votes.  I personally think it’s interesting that Montana (a state much like Idaho in many ways) now regularly elects Democrats.

  9. Kevin Small

    Some of the explanations I hear on this site hold no weight for me as a reason why the great state of Idaho is so conservative.As for the Caucasian argument well I live in the whitest state in the nation (Maine) and Obama won the state both elections handily.We got potatoes in Maine as far as the eye can see so nope on that argument(I know the people claiming this argument were most likely joking).As far as religion goes this argument holds weight with me.Mormons would rather jump off a building head first tthen vote for a stinking progressive like me.The personal liberty argument for voting conservative rings t true “unless you are a homosexual,atheist,pregnant women in distress,any other religion than Christianity,public school student,black,Latino,anyone questioning the support of Israel,any person questioning the true wording of the 2nd amendment,etc..

  10. Judy Doyle

    We live, rather exist in the most rotten state of Kalifornia.  The maniac that was elected governor signed a bill authorizing 25 million dollars to be used to support a group that takes guns away from Californians.  The use the registered gun list and you don’t have to have a record, just own a gun.  We have been looking at Idaho because it is Conservative and so are we. 
    We cannot wait to get out of this communist state! 

    1. Mo

      right behind you!!!

    2. Ron Straight

      I agree Judy, I was born and raised in Commiefornia 70 yrs ago, moved away 3yrs ago because of the one-party ruled government there. Follow your beliefs

  11. Ruth Guercio

    Hi.  I am a Politically conservative Jewish woman who is sickened by the direction America is going in.  I am looking to live in a place where my values are the norm but being Jewish I worry that I will not be accepted.  I believe in G-d, the constitution and conservative values in general and support my fellow Christian conservatives.  I am from NYC but prefer nature.  I am sickened living in NY.  Would that place be Idaho?Thanks.

    1. Fred

      Yes. You’re welcome here in Idahome.

  12. lon cheney jr

    Personal responsablity right from wrong. To own a gun to hunt and protect yourself is not wrong. Murdering someone is. Game laws are in place to prevent over hunting and eradication of game species. If I had the money I would gladly move to the conservative state of Idaho.

  13. Mo

    Looking to move to ID   we are conservatives formerly dems in our youth  life has taught us  liberal progressivism  makes u a prisoner to  govt     Cali is a mess with Moonbeam in charge   ID is beautiful

  14. Brian

    Idaho IS conservative and becoming increasingly uncomfortable for liberals. Why? We’re tired of the Left eating the elephant one bit at a time until they’ve destroyed your state. There is a LOT of anti-Left sentiment here, yes in the Boise area, and a major influx of conservatives is occurring. Purple is becoming more red… thank God. And for the sake of the blue girl in a red state – Please don’t go around thinking that you are more educated and that’s why you’re a liberal. I have bachelor’s and master’s degrees as does everyone that I work with, and we are ALL far-right conservatives. We see right through your shenanigans and spin – and none of us make liberals feel they are OK in being here, golden rule or not. Go to a state or country where your kind has already taken over and leave at least a little bit of the United States to us… don’t be greedy. Go away.

    1. Mike Powell

      Wow, thanks for the comment! It’s certainly illuminating. Luckily for us… and the rest of humanity… people like you don’t get to decide where others are “allowed” to go. Idaho doesn’t belong to you, and your attempts to make people feel unwelcome (a stunning admission, by the way) don’t have any real power.

      1. Blue Girl out there

        Couldn’t have said it better myself! Thank you, Michael.

      2. Uncle Tom

        You’re welcome in idaho, Mike Powell, but if you’re leaving a liberal progressive hell hole, please leave your failed politics at whatever dump you’re leaving be it WA, CA, OR, or NV.

    2. jack

      that was incredibly hateful. That blue person is your neighbor.. your friend.. your comrade.. your fellow american. You should welcome them with open arms.. befriend them… Sadly nothing in your diatribe said anything about WHY you are red just thatyou hate people and want to bully them with i suppose violence.. so sad

    3. Bjorn


    4. lisa

      Well said

  15. C.A. Christensen

    I have a small farm close to SE Idaho and a few months ago my grandson wanted to live there for the winter. He had been driving for 2 days, no sleep, no bath and looked pretty grim. He was hungry so he stopped at a restaurant and one of the people there called the sheriff because he did look like a transient. By the time they got done with him (mostly because of my grandson’s attitude from being tired, hungry and dirty) he ended up in jail for a week and a heavy fine which he did not have the money to pay and was practically “run out of town”. I ended up paying the fine and here I am a taxpayer in that county. Needless to say, I’m not very happy with it right now. It reminds me of the stories you hear about southern states that lay in wait for out of town vehicles so they can fine them and put people in jail for little things. A lot of people are moving into that area from big cities and a lot of the laws are starting to taste of anti-“big city”. Be very wary of moving to Idaho if you are from a liberal state and used to their laws. Idaho is extremely conservative and they will not give you any leeway when it comes to liberalism.

    1. jack

      wow more cops abusing their powers and a judge too by the sounds of it

      1. lisa

        There are two sides to the story. It might have very well been deserved. Don’t be judgemental.

  16. butch

    You people moving in from out of state and bringing your liberal values and morals that have destroyed the cities you came from need to go back. Idaho is great because of the morals and values we espouse. If you want pedophilia, support of criminal illegal aliens, etc. go back to California. We don’t want nor need your values here.

    1. svp

      AMEN Butch’
      I moved my family to Idaho 26 years ago to escape Ca. and you know what we did?
      We blended in, we got along and we went with the flow of what Idahoans were about!
      Why in the hell don’t these new migrant do the same???
      Please do not think you are bringing culture to this backwoods town of Boise!!!
      We were just fine before you came.
      Many of the people are great folks and are doing the same thing we did. Let me make that clear!
      HOWEVER, many of you folks are bring nothing but arrogance, impatience and spoiled kids which is destroying it for everyone.
      Like Butch said, if you can’t behave like decent human beings – go the hell home, PLEASE.

      1. John

        I’m going to start promoting Idaho as a place where Los Angelenos can move to afford a home. Jobs are plentiful, the people are very welcoming, especially to people of color. Yeah, that’s what I’m gonna do.
        YouTube, Twitter, Facebook.

        1. Fredward Benson

          They won’t come. Too lazy

          1. Mike

            Hey Fredward, we’re cool with a wide variety of views on our website, but draw the line at racism. We’re leaving this comment in place, so as not to look away from the ugliness which sadly exists in Idaho, but will be blocking you from future comments.

            Just want to reiterate to our readers that the great, great majority of people we encountered in Idaho were absolutely welcoming (even to homosexual foreign socialists like us, lol), and it remains one of the favorite places we’ve visited.

    2. jack

      liberals don’t believe in pedophilia… nor do the support aliens.. they do support humans and have high morals due to that. Ar eyou sure YOUR the one with morales?

      1. lisa

        No words for this strange response, Except, actions speak louder than words.

    3. Fredward Benson

      That’s right, Butch.

  17. Mrs D

    Why would anybody want to be blue in a red state and ruin it for others

  18. Ray

    Remember that Idaho was handing out 5 to life sentences for homosexuals until recently. They are also one of three states still holding out against marijuana,

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