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US election word of the week: swing state

 © PhotoDiscIn this series we are looking at some of the language and terminology associated with the US electoral process in the run-up to the Presidential election in late 2016. This week’s word is swing state.

A swing state, also known as a battleground state or a purple state, is a state in which no candidate or party has a clear majority or advantage, meaning that in theory either or any of them can win it.



Swing states, like swing voters, are so named because they change (or swing) from voting for one party or candidate to voting for another. The result of this is that they attract a disproportionate amount of attention and campaigning time during elections as the parties focus on the areas that could swing the result their way.

The term battleground state leans on the idea of politics as a conflict, while purple state derives from the fact that strongly Republican states are known as red states and strongly Democratic ones as blue states: if you mix red and blue you get purple, so a purple state is one that could go either way.

The main swing states include Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin; some of these are much more populous than others and therefore have far more electoral votes. Six weeks from election day, the polls in some swing states are too close to call. This is turning out to be a nail-biting contest.

Look out for the next post in this series. You can find past posts on the language of American politics here and here, or search for other posts in this series using the tag US politics.

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Liz Potter

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