Virginia Senators

Rank of VA Senators based on DW-NOMINATE data. 1=most liberal/Democratic, 100=most conservative/Republican

While Virginia had very Democratic Senators in the first part of the century, from the election of Harry Byrd, the state’s Senate Delegation became much more conservative, though for most of the 20th century the seats remained Democratic. Only recently, with the election of Chuck Robb (electorally) and the shift of the Northern Virginia suburbs (demographically), did the Senate seat holders occupy less partisan positions.

Virginia 9th Congressional District

Based on DW-NOMINATE Scores ( 1=most liberal/Democratic; 435=most conservative/Republican.

Working with some DW-NOMINATE data, I plotted the ideological rank of the Congressional Representative for VA-9, where Blacksburg and Virginia Tech are. We can see that the current representative, Morgan Griffith, is the most conservative representative of the district since before World War I. This is an illustration of the DW-NOMINATE data and one of the first steps in my Mapping Congress digital history project. Based on roll call votes, they assess a partisan polarization rating from -1 to 1 along two dimensions/axes. That rating is for a politician’s whole career. So this rank might change because the Congress around him changes (these are all men in VA-9), however, it is a good indication of how the election of an individual can make a dramatic change in the district’s representation in Congress — candidates are not fighting over the middle ground in VA-9 even though it is one that has swung between parties several times over the last century.

The election of Morgan Griffith in 2010 shifted the seat 150 seats to the right, the second largest shift of the last century (the single term of Joseph Shaffer in the 1928 election was a greater shift and immediately swung back).

See also this great xkcd info graphic based on DW-NOMINATE data.