a state where support for Democrat and Republican candidates is roughly equal, so that the way they vote can determine the outcome of the election
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary
Origin and usage
The compound noun swing state is formed from the verb ‘swing’ and the noun ‘state’. It has been in use since the mid 20th century but has become much more frequent in the 21st.
As the US presidential election reaches its final stages I thought it would be good to look again at some of the terminology that pops up regularly in discussions of the subject. One of these terms is swing state, meaning a state that does not reliably vote Democrat or Republican but may vote for either. When used in politics, to swing means to change the way you vote from one election to another rather than always supporting the same party. Swing states with large populations control a larger number of members of the Electoral College than small ones, and so have a greater influence on the outcome of the election. This is why candidates devote a greater portion of their time and effort to campaigning in populous swing states: to win Nevada or New Hampshire is less advantageous than winning Florida or Pennsylvania. A swing voter, generally called a floating voter in British English, is someone who often changes the way they vote. Persuading relatively small numbers of these swing voters to vote for you is one of the keys to electoral success.
You can read more posts about American elections and the language associated with them by searching the blog with the tag ‘US politics’.
Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.
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