There’s a lot of excitement in this upcoming election. It has been one of the most unpredictable elections in U.S. history to date. To those who are following this race and trying to anticipate an outcome, there is one factor that cannot be overlooked and that’s the importance of battleground states. Battleground states, or swing states, are states in which there is not an overwhelming majority or support for one party and/or candidate. It is hard to predict which candidate will claim the state’s electoral votes. We call this “a toss up” – the votes can go either way.
Some of these states, like my state of Florida, hold a lot of electoral votes (29) which have a high attraction and relevancy to the candidates. Often times a swing state is where candidates will spend most of their time campaigning and raising money. For example, Republican Nominee Donald Trump has visited Florida nearly 13 times within the past month. Now, these swings states also gain national attention as they’re the prime target for pollsters – those who conduct polls – to analyze.
Learn more about the Electoral Collegehere.
Non-swing states, or safe states, are the opposite. In a safe state one candidate holds enough support that he/she can make a safe assumption that he/she will win that state. For example, a safe state for Hillary Clinton is New York. New York often leans Democrat, and Hillary Clinton represented this state as a U.S. senator from 2001 to 2009.
Swing states are never officially set in stone and subject to change. Every election cycle, media sources, political scientist, and pollsters speculate what state they think will be vital swing states in the upcoming election. All states can change from safe-states to swing-states, and vice versa.
These states can have a historical and monumental impact on the election. A grand example of this is the 2000 election between George W. Bush (R) and former Vice President Al Gore (D). The election was tied between the two candidates with one state, a swing state, being the tipping point. It was Florida that decided who would become President. In a close election like this one in 2016, the possibility for repetition is high.
Swing states represent pros and cons in our election process. Pro: Every individual vote sincerely matters. Con: Candidates neglect many states to specifically focus their campaign efforts more on swing states, committing more time and resources to them than to other “safer” states.
In this election cycle there are eighteen identified swing states: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. These supposed swing states can be subject to change. Some of them had not been swing states in 2008 or 2012, and according to which pollster or media outlet you consult, this club of swing states will include different members.
(Photo credit: WorldAtlas)
In my state of Florida, our electoral votes have gone to the victor in these past five elections. Therefore, Florida is a major indicator and should be watched carefully on election night. People are aware of the crucial role the state plays in the elections and are politically very active. Signs stressing the importance of voting pop up virtually everywhere. There is a major upside to all this attention for university students like myself: We often have the opportunity to attend rallies and meet the candidates. I have gone to a few of these rallies, and it is rather uncommon to meet someone who has not.
(Photo credit: Olivier Douliery, Abaca Press)
Florida is also one of these swing states where millennials are becoming a major voting block. In the primaries, our pre-presidential elections, voter turnout and voter registration was the highest in 10 years. This was a phenomenon that overtook other swing states which makes young voters another crucial factor that must be taken into account.
As the race for the White House speeds up, we mustn’t forget to look at the battles that take place in these “battleground states” as they just might be the indicator we need to forecast the next U.S. President.
Edgar Barrios is a student in Political Science at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL. Edgar will give us great insights into State politics (e.g. close Senate races) in an important swing state, among other things.