It’s something we hear mentioned regularly in politics, especially when there’s a presidential election: North Carolina is a swing state. Indeed, for the 2020 presidential election, NC is predicted to be a top swing state. But what exactly does that mean? Because it’s been a hot minute since I was in a civics or political science class, I decided to find out so we can all be a little more informed.
Simply put, a swing state is one where the two major political parties (a.k.a. Democrat or Republican) have similar levels of support among voters and which could be won by either party’s presidential candidate. Swing states can swing back + forth between candidates, and they are also often referred to as battleground states, which are typically competitively targeted by candidates with advertising, campaign visits, and the like. Swing states also determine which states will be decisive in the Electoral College. North Carolina holds 15 electoral votes, and candidates need a minimum of 270 electoral votes to make it to the White House.
While it’s my humble opinion that the Tarheel State has always been the best state, it hasn’t always been a swing state. In fact, North Carolina was a Democratic stronghold for years, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans. In this century, Democrats have held the governor’s office here for all but four years, and until 2010, Democrats controlled the legislature and drew the state’s maps. DYK: a Republican hasn’t made it to the Oval Office without winning NC in almost 70 years? Within the last 10 to 15 years, the number of Democrats in the state has gone down, and the number of independents has increased. The result is roughly the same amount of Democratic, Republican + Independent voters, increasing the likelihood of a split ticket. Additionally, the state has grown rapidly over the last two decades, becoming more racially + ethnically diverse, all of which affects voter turnout.
Just this week, The Washington Post broke North Carolina down into six different political states, or areas with distinctive demographics + voting trends. These areas include: the Piedmont, the Charlotte area, the Triangle, Blackbelt, Eastern NC, and Appalachia (WNC). When breaking down the 2016 election by region, researchers found Hillary Clinton won three areas (Triangle, Charlotte area, and Blackbelt), and Donald Trump won the other three (Piedmont, Eastern NC, and Appalachia).