What Is a Swing State? Why Independent Voters Rule
Swing states are the states that are likely to determine the results of the 2012 election.
What is meant by a swing state? A swing state is a state that is almost evenly divided between how many voters usually vote Republican and how many voters usually vote Democrat.
People who do not vote, or more importantly, people who are not even registered to vote, are not usually considered in making the determination of whether or not a state is considered a swing state. To put it bluntly, if you do not vote, you do not count.
Why does it matter if the electorate (voters) is almost evenly divided between Conservative and Liberal -- Republican and Democrat, in a state? It matters because the vote will be so close to 50/50, that the outcome is subject to how well either candidate is able to sway the Independent voters in that state.
That is correct. The Independent voters are the voters who the candidates will be wooing in the swing states, because they do not vote for the same Party in every election. Both candidates will be doing their best to determine who is an Independent (no party preference or affiliation) and they will be going after that person’s vote more than any other.
Swing Map 2016
Independent Voters Rule In a Swing State
It is the Independent voters in swing states who will decide which presidential candidate will win the election in their state. Independents are voters who are not loyal to either the Republican or the Democratic Party. Their votes can, and do often change parties from one election to another.
There are very few truly Independent voters. Only a few hundred voters can make the difference in a swing state with a huge overall population and determine the outcome of the presidential election in that state.
It becomes a matter of candidates convincing the Independent voters in a swing state that they have the best plan for running our country. Candidates unwaveringly seek out Independent voters and try to persuade them to their own views in a swing state, because they know these are the people who will decide who gets all of that state’s electoral votes.
A true Independent does not make a habit of voting for either political party on a regular basis. If you are a person who mostly votes for Republicans, then you are a Republican whether or not you are a card-carrying member of the Republican Party. Likewise if you mostly vote Democratic, you are for all intents and purposes a Democrat.
Republican and Democratic Stronghold States
With many states where the majority of the electorate is clearly Conservative or clearly liberal, it is relatively easy to determine which candidate will win that state’s electoral votes. There could be a surprise upset, but it does not happen very often.
Pollsters will be working their hardest in the swing states prior to the election in an effort to determine as best possible which way that state is likely to lean. However, the “science,” if you can call it science, is a long way from perfect in most cases, and they may just have to wait until all the votes are counted – which is not always so easy either! Remember the hand counting of ballots and the hanging chads in Florida a few years ago?
If you ever wonder why Democratic candidates all but never visit Texas to campaign here, it is because Texas is approximately 67% Conservative, give or take a little. Candidates will not waste their limited time and money on a state that is not likely to go their way.
By the same token, Republicans all but never visit Massachusetts, because it is generally considered a waste of their limited time and money to do so. Sometimes California receives a visit from a Republican candidate, but it is not at the top of their list of places to spend their campaign funds.
It is also true, that candidates spend very little time in states where they expect to have a slam-dunk. That is because there is no need to persuade voters to their viewpoint because the majority of voters are loyal to their party already. Romney is not likely to spend a lot of time in Texas, since Texas is already in his corner. Obama is not likely to spend much time in Massachusetts, because that state is already in his corner.
Candidates may make a couple of quick stops in states where they are already the favorite candidate in order to shore up the votes and prevent their ‘base’ from feeling neglected and unappreciated, but most of their time, candidates will be in the swing states.
A candidates “base” is the block of voters that always vote for the party he is representing. The majority of Texas voters always vote Republican, so Romney is counting on, and expecting the majority of Texas voters to vote for him.
The final overall vote tally in ‘red’ or ‘blue’ states, believe it or not, is usually pretty predictable -- but not so in swing states. Swing states are where both candidates are likely to spend most of their time and money hoping to sway that 1-3% of voters, mostly Independents, in that state who will determine the outcome of the election in that state. If you live in a swing state, prepare yourself for nonstop television and radio political advertisements, as the election gets closer.
With a 50/50 division, or very nearly so, between Republicans and Democrats, the results could go either way. Just 1% of the vote could determine the outcome of the election in that state. In other words, the results of the vote could swing in favor of Obama, or it could swing in favor of Romney, and will most likely by a very slim margin either way it ends up going.
As few as 500 votes, out of all the millions cast, could determine the outcome in a swing state! Who said a single vote does not matter? In a swing state, every vote matters.
Statisticians or Political Analysts
Both candidates and all of the major television networks, and others who want to know the second an outcome is known in the election, will have what boils down to statisticians on their payroll.
Statisticians, or political analysts, are people who work with statistics and make “scientific” predictions based on the numbers from exit polls, recent surveys of registered voters, and voter turnout, as to who is likely to win particular states. Most of their efforts in this endeavor are obviously focused on swing states.
Depending on phone surveys just prior to the election, voter turnout, and exit polls, political analysts will often know who has won the election long before people on our West Coast finish voting. The election will reach a point when a few thousand, or even a few hundred thousand votes, will make no difference in the outcome.
Out of courtesy, most of the networks will keep it to themselves until all the polls are closed out west. While they are waiting to inform the public, they will all consult with each other to make sure they have all determined the same outcome in order to avoid announcing the wrong outcome. That is because the vast majority of votes already cast have reached a total so huge that the small percentage of votes still not cast cannot make any difference even if all of them voted for one candidate.
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There are 10 states considered to be Swing States in the 2012 Election – This list may change as the Election gets closer
In alphabetical order:
The swing state of Ohio has been in the winning circle for the last 6 elections. It has become the must win state for presidential candidates, especially Republican candidates. President Obama carried Ohio in the last election. It may be interesting to see what happens this year. It is still early and a lot of things could change before Election Day in November. However, most political analysts will tell you, the way Ohio goes, so goes the country.
This video explains the dynamics of swing states but the states used for demonstration are not necessarily swing states in 2016
Questions & Answers
© 2012 C E Clark