Why did Biden lose Kentucky?

Here’s a thread to discuss it.

2020 registered voter stats (cite) 2020 certified election results (cite)
1,578,612 registered Republicans (44.15%) 1,326,646 for Trump/Pence (Republican; 62.09%)
1,670,574 registered Democrats (46.72%) 772,474 for Biden/Harris (Democratic; 36.15%)
13,812 registered Libertarians (0.39%) 26,234 for Jorgeson/Cohen (Libertarian; 1.23%)
312,964 other registered voters (8.75%) 11,414 for other tickets (0.53%)
3,575,962 total registered voters 2,136,768 total votes

Turnout would be about 59.75% overall.


More people voted for Trump than Biden.

Many voters will register as Democrats, but a large proportion of these will not actually vote? That’s all I’ve got.

Kentucky is a deeply conservative state that may still, to some degree at the state and local level, reflect the former positions of the political parties, before they switched positions on race and civil rights to a great degree.

That’s my educated guess.

Well, consider also that Kentucky elected Governor Andy Beshear of the Democratic party in 2019, by a razer-thin margin of just over 5,000 votes.

Beshear recieved 709,890 votes, which is remarkable considering it was an off-year and the 2020 Biden/Harris ticket only received 772,474 votes.


Kentucky has gone to the Republican nominee for president by more than 10 points in the last 6 presidential elections.

Beshear had name recognition from his former-governor father, and Bevin, the guy he beat, was deeply unpopular – 33% approval rating.

All throughout Appalachia, it used to be that the Democratic Party was the party of the common worker and the Republican Party was the party for big business and the wealthy. Coal miners, steel workers, and unions all throughout Appalachia consistently voted Democrat. This was the way things were at least from the 1960s up through the year 2000.

Then a major shift occurred. This started with the Democratic Party embracing environmental policies on a larger scale, which the coal miners, steel mill workers, chemical plant workers all throughout the Ohio valley, and other unionized workers all saw as an attack on their livelihood. Hillary Clinton forced a major swing, as Appalachian workers and rural residents did not view her as representing their interests at all.

A lot of voters throughout Appalachia are still registered Democrats just because of historical inertia, but have voted for Trump because they feel he better represents their views.

West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee all skewed massively towards Trump, much more so than the number of registered Democrats vs Republicans would predict.

Simply put, party registration doesn’t mean much, anywhere in the US.

A lot of these registered Democrats are holdovers from back when the Democratic Party reigned supreme in Appalachia. Many of them pretty consistently vote Republican nowadays, but have just never gotten around to changing their party registrations.

To a lesser extent it works the other way as well. I know a guy who came of voting age and registered Republican way back when the GOP still had a small, somewhat progressive wing. Though the guy has been a dyed-in-the-wool liberal for as long as I’ve known him, and probably hasn’t voted for a single Republican since the last millennium, he didn’t bother changing his party registration until 2016.

Lots of them are just voting for Republicans. They registered as Democrats back whenever and have had no reason to go through the rigmarole of changing their registration since. They won’t re-register as Republicans until/unless they (A) want to vote in a Republican primary and (B) form the intention to do so before the deadline to change parties. This deadline appears to be several months before the primary (the deadline for the May 2022 primary was last week), and most people aren’t thinking about their vote that far in advance.

Kentucky’s system is practically designed to make total party registration an extremely lagging indicator.

Thanks, this makes sense

There will probably be a shift the next time there’s a contested Republican presidential primary that gins up a lot of attention before the deadline to switch. Some of these people genuinely didn’t consider themselves Republicans until after 2016 (even if many of them were voting for Republicans well before that).

All of which is to say, of you used to be a Republican (i.e. before ~1994) then you should now be a Democrat, and vice versa. The groups under the two banners have flipped sides, without really changing their underlying platform.

Most counties in KY, especially here in rural and Appalachian KY, are dominated by one party or another, both demographically and in terms of local goverment, and have been for as long as anybody can remember. My own county is about 80% registered Democrats.

In terms of local offices the Democratic primary is usually the de facto general election. Since we have closed primaries, if you’re not a registered Dem you don’t have a vote in the local races. So people who haven’t voted for a Dem nationally in decades haven’t changed their registrations.

(It’s mostly the Democrats who dominate, but in some smaller counties like the one I grew up in the Republicans are similarly dominant. My parents probably haven’t voted GOP in my lifetime but they’re still registered that way.)

This used to translate nationally, at least in the Presidential race. Bill Clinton won Kentucky twice. Then again, we haven’t had a Democratic Senator since 1999. But then again, our current Governor is a Democrat, though mostly because our last governor was a douchebag even for a Republican and managed to piss off every teacher in the state. So it’s a fool who looks for logic in Bluegrass State politics.

How is this not threadshitting?

As to the OP, wow, I never would have guessed that more Democrats than Republicans are registered in KY. Perhaps Dems do a lot of registration there and get a lot of low/no enthusiasm people to sign up that are never going to actually go vote?

Is it possible that there are lots of Republicans that are registered as Democrats so they can vote in Dem primaries?

Because governor is a state office, people probably feel more comfortable crossing party lines than for a national office. See also Kansas and Louisiana (Democratic governors) and Vermont and Maryland (Republican governors).

Just look at the numbers:

Sure, there are more registered Democrats, but for some reason, only about half of them voted. So they lost. Total number of registered Rs and Ds adds up to just over 3.2 million, while total votes cast for Trump and Biden adds up to just about 2.2 million.

Not much mystery, there. Turnout matters, and Trump supporters turned out more than Biden supporters (about 84% of them, in fact). Even if all the “other registered voters” had come out and voted for Biden, he’d still have lost.

That’s what you really need to be discussing.

This depends on how the numbers are calculated. Did they just measure votes for Trump/Pence, or did they measure votes from registered Republicans who supported Trump/Pence? Same with Biden/Harris.

If the former, then the arguments in the rest of the thread make sense. It would be possible that registered voters of both parties voted in more equal numbers, but that a huge percentage of those registered Democrat voted Trump/Pence. People above have made a good argument for why that would be.

If it’s the latter, only then must it definitely boil down to turnout.

It’s a secret ballot, so I have no idea how you would determine the second number.

But the point is, mathematically, there’s really nothing to explain here. If almost all registered voters had voted, and Biden still lost, then there’d be something odd about it. Fraud, or registered Democrats switching parties at a higher rate than registered Republicans, or the Independents heavily favoring Trump, or something.

But as it is, it just looks like a lot of registered Democrats just stayed home. No more complicated explanation is needed.

Of course, explaining why they stayed home might get complicated.

I think you’re badly misreading that table. The left-hand column is registered voters in 2020. The right hand column is votes cast in the 2020 Presidential election. You don’t read the rows straight across. The 1,326,646 is not the numbers of Republicans who voted for Trump - it’s the total number of Kentuckians who voted for him. There’s no way to determine in official tallies how many voters of any particular party voted for a candidate, since that’s simply not how ballots are tallied.

In the 2020 Presidential election, a bunch of registered Democrats in Kentucky voted for the Republican candidate for President. Look at the excellent posts starting with @engineer_comp_geek starting at post #7 discussing the reasons for the disparity between the nominal party of registry of Kentuckians.

Yes, this is exactly what happened. It’s not mysterious at all, and it’s not an extreme differential in turnout. In the U.S. system, registered party affiliation just isn’t a particularly good indicator of voting behavior in Presidential elections.