What are swing states?

Swing states are the states where the popular vote is generally very close during each presidential election in the United States.

These states are also commonly referred to as battleground states or purple states. Swing states are the major focus for presidential candidates on campaign trails.

Candidates tend to give these select states more attention due to the fact that they are toss-up states, which could determine their overall standings in the race. To fully grasp the importance of swing states, you must first understand the voting system used during federal elections, known as the Electoral College. 

The Electoral College

There are two types of vote percentages that are calculated during each presidential election: the popular vote and the electoral vote. The popular vote is the percentage of all votes by each U.S. citizen. The electoral vote, however, is determined by the votes from the electors in the Electoral College.

Presidencies in the U.S. are decided using only the electoral vote. Each state is assigned a particular number of electors based on the state’s population. One elector is granted for each state’s senator, and another elector is granted for each one of the state’s representatives.

When voters head to the polls on Election Day, they are selecting the electors who will vote for the presidency in their favor. The Electoral College process requires a total of 538 electoral votes, with 270 needed by any one candidate to receive a majority for election.

Non-Swing States

To determine which states are considered swing states, we must first look at the non-swing states. Utah, Alaska, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Kansas, Idaho, South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska are all states where the Republican presidential candidate has won by a huge margin for the past 10 presidential elections. On the other hand, states that have consistently voted for a Democratic candidate in past elections include New York, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Maryland. These are states where voting for the unlikely candidate will generally not make a difference in the projected outcome for the state’s election. 

Which states are up for grabs?

Swing states are states that have decided presidential candidates by a very close margin. In some cases, the margin has been less than one percent.

Even though swing states can vary based on the circumstances of each election, they generally include Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. These states have had a history of shifting back and forth regarding political candidates in the majority of past U.S. presidential elections. 

Each swing state holds a large number of swing voters that have no affiliation with a political party. Candidates focus on campaigning throughout swing states with the hope of shifting the votes in their favor.

By holding rallies and speeches in prominent swing states, candidates have higher chances of getting undecided voters to vote for them on Election Day. They do, however, visit some non-swing states with the intention of raising the campaign funds needed to expand their campaign trail.