Why is red the color of republicans and blue the color of democrats?

The title is pretty selfexplanatory, but I ask this because it seems to be the reverse in the rest of the world. I cannot claim to know the ‘color codings’ of political parties in all countries, but in Europe (certainly in the Netherlands) red is associated with left-wing parties and blue is the color for right-wing parties (in a [mostly] non-rasist way).

I think it might have something to do with blue being the color of ‘liberals’ - one should not forget that the Democrats would be on the extreme right in many European countries - but that still leaves the question of why republicans are associated with a color that in the rest of the world means socialism/communism/social democracy.

WAG- Red is associated with Communism, which is just about the worst word any American politician could say. So the Dems stay away from it.

With my somewhat limited google fu skillz, I was unable to find any account of the history of this practice, but my guess would be something to do with contrariness.

Red and blue for the Republicans and Democrats, respectively, only took hold in the 2000 election cycle. Before that they were just assigned at random for maps showing voting demographics.

I recall earlier this year a radio personality or someone–maybe Rush Limbaugh–mixed up who was red and who was blue and mistook a blue majority on a map for a Republican advantage.

Spontaneous symmetry breaking.

It’s pretty much a random convention that only recently crystalized.

The American Dialect Society Mailing List had a pretty good discussion of the history of the use of Red/Blue in the US. I’ll link to the two relevant posts.



It goes back to 1900-1908 originally, but the second link will offer (another) link wherein the possible modern origins probably lie. The tv networks probably agreed in 1976 to alternate the colors every four years. But the last 10 years or so they haven’t switched, again possibly because the colors had taken a life of their own and had become entrenched in people’s minds.

Will the networks break with the blue vs. red state standard?, from a week ago. Apparently, a de facto standard emerged during the controversy in 2000, and since then the colours have stuck.

Why is red the color of republicans and blue the color of democrats?

Because I like blue and I dislike red.:slight_smile:

Luckily, my party has the same colour as my football team, otherwise I would be in an ethical quandary.

I think the reason the current use of red and blue has stuck is that the blue states tend to be in the north which was blue (as in blue versus gray) during the War of Northern Agression (or U.S. Civil War) and the red states tend to be in the south which had gray military uniforms but flew a flag that was predominantly red (see “Confederate Flag”).

The “Confederate flag” as seen on trucks and Lynyrd Skynyrd albums is actually the Confederate Navy Jack, not any of the official flags of the CSA. That doesn’t have anything to do with the current red/blue associations discussed here.

The parties themselves have not adopted blue and red as their official colors. I would be surprised if they did, because it would leave them open to charges of being unpatriotic. The national colors – red, white, and blue – are particularly important and evocative in American society and culture. A major political party is unlikely to choose anything else but red, white, and blue as their official colors.

I would not be so sure.

Or wearing plaid.

Then why wasn’t red the Republican color until 2000? When Reagan won by a landslide in 1984, pundits called the electoral map “Lake Reagan” because almost everything was blue.

I think it all started in 2000, with the extremely close election. It’s random, but it’s stuck.

I didn’t know you were a City supporter.


I thought that we had reached a consensus that the current red-Republican, blue-Democrat associations were now firm (hence the OP “Why is red the color of republicans and blue the color of democrats?”) and were discussing possible reasons that this current association seems to have “stuck.”

If the Civil War was a factor I think those colors would have “stuck” much earlier. Red isn’t associated with the Confederacy anyway. The flag you referred to is red and blue, and showing red alone wouldn’t make anybody think of it. Contrast that with, say, the Blue-Gray college football game.

It’s pretty obvious why it has stuck. The protracted 2000 election dispute and subsequent use of “red” and “blue” in the media kept confirming the usage. It was a snowball effect.