Midterm 2022:

Party, Gender, and Geography in candidate performance

In our last post, we compared the Midterm election performance of our Constitutional officers (governor, secretary of state, attorney general, etc.). Today we will look at what potentially accounts for the differences in their performance.

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Average Percent of vote received


1. Party

Clearly, the single biggest factor in determining performance was party. Republicans were dominant, and an R, D, or L by a candidate’s name meant the difference between winning or losing.







High and Low Marks: By Party

High: 69%

Low: 63%

Tommy Land
Sarah Huckabee Sanders

High: 35%

Low: 29%

Chris Jones
Diamond Arnold-Johnson


High: 4%

Low: 2%

Simeon Snow
Ricky Dale Harrington

2. Gender

Gender was not determinative like party was, i.e., being male or female didn’t mean a candidate won or lost. However, it did seem to have an impact on the margin by which a candidate won or lost. The data is ‘squishy,’ as there are other factors at play, and we will mention those as we go.

There were 7 women and 7 men who ran for a Constitutional office as a Republican or a Democrat.

Democrats: 5 women, 2 men
Republicans: 2 women, 5 men

(We aren’t using data from Libertarians here because 1) they were all men so there’s no apples to apple comparison and 2) they got such a small percentage of the vote, it skews the data.)

Overall, men averaged 57.7% of the vote, and women averaged 40.9% of the vote. However, that’s pretty meaningless, given that far more women ran as Democrats than men, and we know that Democrats averaged far less than Republicans. So that data basically reflects partisan bias, not gender.

So, let’s look at the average vote for each gender within each party.


MEN: 66.3%

WOMEN: 63.6%

MEN: 33.8%

WOMEN: 31.8%

We can see there is a slight disadvantage to being a woman in both parties with this data. There are additional considerations, however. For example, women were more likely to face more candidates in their race than men were.

Both Republican women (Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Leslie Rutledge) were in 3-candidate races with a Democrat AND a Libertarian, whereas only one male Republican candidate faced a 3-candidate race. Most of the men faced a Democrat only, therefore making it an easier lift to get a higher vote percentage.

It’s a little less messy on the Democratic side. A little more than half of the women faced a 3-candidate race, while exactly half of the men faced a 3-candidate race. The comparison is more even than on the Republican side. And we can see a 2% drop from men to women on average.

But if you look at the only Democratic male 2-person race (Jesse Gibson) compared to the other female 2-person races, Gibson did slightly worse than 2 women and slightly better than 1.

The Democratic women’s average also seemed to be brought down partially by a poor performance from Diamond Arnold-Johnson for Auditor, who was arrested about a week before the election.

So, given all of these factors, what can we say?

The data shows us women carried a 2-3% disadvantage compared to men. Yes, the number of candidates in a race was likely a factor. But who’s to say some of those women didn’t face additional candidates BECAUSE they were a women?

Our takeaway is that gender doesn’t matter enough to win or lose a statewide race. That’s determined by party. But, it does likely have a slight impact on performance and could play a larger factor in areas with a more even partisan divide – though those areas are few and far between these days.


3. Geography

You should know by now that we love maps, so we created one below that’s the best way to see this.

First off, like gender, geography isn’t determinative. But it is interesting to see where some candidates performed better and some candidates did worse. It also illustrates which candidates were more ‘palatable’ to a broader spectrum of voters.

We can see this in the number of counties that Republican candidates won or lost.

Lost 4 counties, Under 50% in 4 counties

  • Tommy Land
  • Tim Griffin
  • John Thurston

Lost 4 counties, Under 50% in 5 counties

  • Dennis Milligan

Lost 5 counties, Under 50% in 5 counties

  • Mark Lowery

Lost 5 counties, Under 50% in 6 counties

  • Leslie Rutledge

Lost 7 counties, Under 50% in 8 counties

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders


Blue vs. Red Counties

So you can see all of the Republican candidates lost at least 4 counties. Those are the remaining “Blue” counties in Arkansas.

They are:

  • Pulaski
  • Jefferson
  • Phillips
  • Chicot

There are some counties that some Republicans won, while others lost:

Lee County

  • Lost by:
    • Mark Lowery
    • Leslie Rutledge
    • Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Washington County

  • Lost by:
    • Sarah Huckabee Sanders

St. Francis County

  • Lost by:
    • Sarah Huckabee Sanders


Top 10 Republican Counties

Scott (84% for Sanders)
Pike (84%)
Searcy (82%)
Cleburne (82%)
Cleveland (82%)
Polk (82%)
Grant (81%)
Prairie (81%)
Sharp (80%)
Boone (79%)

Top 10 Democratic Counties

Pulaski (61% for Jones)
Jefferson (60%)
Phillips (55%)
Chicot (52%)
Lee (50%)
St. Francis (50%)
Washington (49%)
Crittenden (49%)
Desha (47%)
Monroe (44%)

What do each of these groups of counties have in common?

That’s up next.

We’ll be looking at the Republican strongholds and the Democratic strongholds in the state later this week.