The term swing state is a very popular term in the United States, but to those outside American, the word is meaningless.
So what exactly is a swing state?
A swing state is a simple concept: it is a state that could go either way in an election.
Some states are deeply connected with the values of one party, and will almost always vote with that party. For example: Idaho is a Republican State (and has gone Republican in every election since 1968), while Massachusetts is a Democratic State (which nearly always votes democrat except for twice in the 80s)
Then there are the swing states, like Ohio, Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and others. These are states that do not have a strong historical trend to vote either way, their vote typically “swings” from party to party depending on where the candidates themselves stand on the issues.
The demographics of each state is critical to them becoming a swing state.
Florida: Florida is a swing state because it has a large immigrant population, not just from outside the United States but from other states as Florida is the state for retirement, they have a very large Latin population, and major urban centers like Miami. This huge diversity is critical to what makes Florida a swing state.
Ohio is another big swing state. Ohio also has a large number of urban centers, with Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. They are situated in the mid-west, but many people from Ohio really identify with those in the North East more than the mid west.
Why are swing states so important?
Well when it comes to getting elected, you have to campaign! And since it costs money, the candidates must look at how to best spend their money, and this is where the strategy comes in.
It would be idiotic for a Democrat to spend all their time and money in Idaho, as it does not matter how much time or money she spends, she will never win that state.
It also makes no sense for a Republican to spend a lot of time and money in Idaho either, as Idaho will definitely vote for the Republican candidate.
But the swing states, also known as “battleground states”, are states that the support for both candidates is pretty much even.
A great example of this is Ohio, the definition of a swing state. Currently, polling from every polling agency puts Clinton and Trump at an even tie, so both candidates will spend a lot of time and money here, trying to win.
The same goes with Florida, which puts Clinton ahead by 1 point, but Florida was the scene of the famous recount of Bush v Gore, so anything goes with Florida
This concept leads to a very interesting trend in campaign spending, as the candidates pump millions into these small swing states. For example, using data from Kantar Media, we can see that in the 2012 election, the candidates spent a combined 148 million dollars targeting the voters in Ohio, amounting to 17.7 percent of the total ad spending nationwide! 21 percent, or 175 million was spent in Florida! All for a very small percentage of votes compared to the entire country.
So the concept of a swing state is a strategic thing: it is a state where either candidate could win, so they spend all their time there battling it out. So congratulations Ohio, 2016 is the year for you. First the cavs win, and in November you will pick the President!
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