Comparative Problem

Comparative Problem: Where is the Real Election Battleground?

Melinda Jackson, San Jose State University





The phrase “battleground states” refers to states where the popular vote is close in a particular presidential election. Usually states are listed as battleground states for several elections in a row because the demographics and party affiliations of the electorate remain in place for a time, making for very close contests between Republicans and Democrats. Examples of this pattern are Ohio and Florida. Sometimes a state can suddenly become a battleground because of the candidate. In 2008, Barack Obama won North Carolina, usually a Republican state, because of the African American and youth vote.

Presidential campaigns decide early in a campaign which states will be the battleground and spend most of their resources there. Why? The Electoral College, not the popular vote, elects the president of the US. All but two states have a winner-take-all system for awarding electoral votes. If you win the popular vote even with a slim margin, you get all of the votes. (Nebraska and Maine award on a congressional district basis.) Pollsters determine the battleground by looking at the polling in individual states, where there is a toss up or where polling shows less than a 5-10% difference between the candidates. Thus, both campaigns have a good chance to win.

In a close election, one state can determine the outcome, such as happened in 2000 in the presidential contest between Vice President Al Gore and Governor George W. Bush. Two battleground states, New Hampshire and Florida, with slim margins for Bush awarded all of their electoral votes to him. He won the Electoral College by just 5 votes, even though he lost the popular election by more than half a million votes.

In this exercise, you will compare the historic patterns of the battleground states in each of the last 7 presidential elections of 1988-2012, to a toss-up map of the present election. Toss-up is not a simple statistic since different polling sites use different methods for determining which states to include. However, the states in this map are expected to be most competitive this year, based on past elections, current polls, and expert analysis”








Analyze the Evidence

Instructions: Answer the following questions with about 35-40 words each.

What states and regions of the US seem to have factored most as battleground states in the last 7 presidential cycles?

What seem to be the regions that are most in play from 2000 to today?

Speculate how President Obama’s race may have changed the dynamics of battleground states from 2004 to 2008.

In the map of the 2016 battleground states that Dr. Jackson has provided, explain why some battleground states may be different because Hillary Clinton is a woman.

In the same map, explain why some battleground states may be different because Donald Trump is not an ideological conservative.


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