(CNN)A teachers strike in West Virginia is expected to come to an end after Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill Tuesday giving a 5% pay raise to all state employees.
Surprised a teacher's strike succeeded in Trump country? Don't be.
It's a victory for teachers -- and organized labor -- in a state Donald Trump won by more than 40 percentage points and one with a Republican state legislature and Republican governor.
It may be shocking to some, but the underlying attitudes in West Virginia reveal it shouldn't come as a surprise: West Virginia may love Trump, but it's not a place where that love for Trump means that people are happy with the economic status quo or love Republicans.
Last year, Gallup asked residents of all states to say how they felt about the current state of the economy and how they feel it will be in the future. From those measures, Gallup formed an economic confidence index that scales from -100 to +100. West Virginia scored just a +1, which tied it with California, Louisiana and Hawaii as the eighth worst state in the nation.
West Virginia's low ranking is interesting because views on the economy are heavily influenced by who is in the White House. Other states who give the economy a +1 rating include deep blue California and Hawaii. To that point, if you were going to try and predict the economic confidence of all states based off of how they feel about Trump, West Virginia's actual economic index number comes in more under the forecast than any other.
West Virginia's relative ranking of economic confidence was relatively unmoved even when Trump became president. In 2016, West Virginians ranked worst for economic confidence. A move from worst to eighth-worst once Trump entered the White House is minor compared to say Republican Wyoming, which went from the second-worst economic confidence index to tied for best between 2016 and 2017.
Essentially that means that West Virginia's low rating of the economy is clearly a reflection of economic hurt in a way that isn't true for many other states who have low economic confidence.
And unlike in the previous year, the only people West Virginians could blame for the state of the economy are Republicans. Republicans control the state legislature and the governorship in addition to controlling the federal government. The last time that happened prior to 2017 was more than 85 years ago. That means that for the first time in a long time no one could argue that Democratic allies like labor were to blame for the state of economy in West Virginia. Labor itself was hurt after the Republican legislature passed a right to work law in 2016.
In other words, there is a lot more room for sympathy for labor than there would have been even just a few years ago.
I'd argue that Republicans in West Virginia have in some ways misread the electorate. Part of the reason Trump won so easily in 2016 in West Virginia is that he promised to bring jobs back. It was the same message that then-Democrat and now Republican Gov. Justice rode to the governor's mansion.
Not giving workers a raise goes against that.
Republicans have won big victories in West Virginia in spite of the state still being in the middle of the road in some ways. It's still a state where Democrats have a +12 percentage point advantage over Republicans in party registration. (As I noted last week, party registration is predictive of vote choice for the US House of Representatives even after controlling for the President's approval rating.) Much of that though is voters not changing their registration to match their current political attitudes.
Still, Republicans don't even make up a majority of West Virginia adults when you simply ask them what party they lean to right now. Gallup found, in 2017, that only 44% of West Virginians said they were or leaned towards the Republican Party. That's just a few percentage points ahead of the 40% who said they were or leaned Democratic And while that 4 point Republican edge still makes West Virginia more Republican than the average state, it's only 5 points more Republican than average. It's certainly a lot more Democratic than you'd expect for such a heavy Trump state.