POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy

Swing States

Swing states are those in US presidential elections that could potentially be won by either candidate. Also known as battleground states, these states are where presidential candidates focus their energy and resources throughout the campaign period.

Their opposites are known as safe states, which opinion polls leading up to the election identify as being highly likely won by a particular party’s candidate. Safe states are therefore not prioritized in terms of allocating time and resources during the election campaign.

Swing states in 2016

In the lead up to the 2016 US presidential race, the following states were generally regarded as swing states:

  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Iowa
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Of these swing states, the Hillary Clinton won Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire and Virginia, for a total of 32 electoral college votes. On the other hand, eventual winner Donald Trump took out Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, for a total of 114 electoral college votes.

Trump’s ability to win most of these swing states, and particularly those more populous states yielding more electoral college votes, ultimately proved decisive in winning the presidency.

See also: Presidential Election, Bellwether States

< Go back