Polling News

Ticket-Splitting in the Trump Era

May 16, 2024

Republicans have a real shot at taking control of the U.S. Senate. Their chances just improved this week with Jim Justice’s primary victory in West Virginia and Larry Hogan’s primary victory in Maryland. GOP success this fall depends on increasing the number of ticket-splitting states. Ticket-splitting where the presidential candidate and Senate candidate of the same party have different results in the same election has been declining over the last 40 years, accelerating in the Trump Era, according to data compiled by NBC News.

By The Numbers:

  • In 1984, there were 17 ticket-splitting instances, 17 in 1988, ten in 1992, ten in 1996, ten in 2000, seven in 2004, seven in 2008, and six in 2012.

  • There were no ticket-splitting results in 2016, and only one in 2020 – GOP Sen. Susan Collins won re-election in Maine by nine points, while Donald Trump lost the state by nine points. 

  • Looking at 2024, there are four states critical for control of the White House as well as the U.S. Senate: Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The latest NYT/Sienna polling has Trump at -2 in Wisconsin, +3 in Pennsylvania, +7 Arizona, and +12 in Nevada. The Republican Senate candidates in the same poll were -9, -5, -5, and -2, respectively. 

The Bottom Line: It’s not impossible to out-perform the top of the ticket in a swing state in a presidential year. While Republicans in purple states have a challenge ahead, Democrat incumbents in states like Ohio and Montana have a bigger hill to climb to hold on to their seats. Ticket-splitting aside, 2024 Republican down-ballot candidates can be successful if they remember their own campaigns and their own brands. They can consolidate and energize as much of the Republican base as possible, and in addition, create a bridge to new coalitions and demographics. It’s a subtle nuance, but as these historic numbers remind us, it can be done. 

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