I am curious about politics. There is a type of voter that I heard about called a swing voter. The normal type of voter swings based on whether one candidate is good in their opinion or not. This type of voter may decide which major party's candidate to support at any time. This voter will vote Democratic 50% of the time and vote Republican 50% of the time, which creates destructive interference over time. Is this a real type of voter?

Note: I would assume such a voter is not super interested in politics and does so in order to be civically active. And, would this create destructive interference because the votes cast by such a voter eventually become even?

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    Swing voters certainly exist. I've never seen a claim, though, that swing voters create "destructive interference over time". Do you have a citation for that claim? Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 23:12
  • What I mean is a special type of swing voter that randomly selects a candidate. This voter randomly chooses Democrats and Republicans. I don't need a citation because 50-50=0=EVEN. Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 23:13
  • Are you asking whether there are voters that vote Democratic half the time and Republican half the time? Or voters that, by voting 50/50, create destructive interference? The former is pretty self-evidently true. If you are asking the latter, I'm not sure what you mean by "destructive interference". Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 23:16
  • I mean that if you add the votes up, they tend to have a net of zero or close to zero. Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 23:27
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    A swing voter does not randomly choose between D and R. How would someone who is for gay rights, pro-choice, legalizing drugs, but is for far lower taxes and less governmental intrusion in the market place? (Rent control, etc...) That person would be a swing voter and have to choose between evils.
    – Mayo
    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 13:27

1 Answer 1


From what I've seen in the research, people may vote non-rationally on some ballot items: usually issue voters, who go to the polls to vote for a specific candidate or issue and are uninformed about other issues or offices on the ballot. They don't vote randomly per se. People (as a rule) are not good at random action, and instead vote in line with unconscious biases or habits. There is a well-documented effect, for instance, that a candidate can get a 5% boost merely by being listed first on the ballot, because (assumedly) people unconsciously associate 'first' with 'best'.

As far as I can tell there is no significant population of voters who intentionally go to the polls to make arbitrary choices. Nor can I see a point in that: ballots are secret, precluding public demonstration; arbitrary votes will cancel out, statistically speaking, so there's no real harm done. Where's the fun in that?

'Swing voters', as the term is commonly used, are not people who arbitrarily or randomly cast their votes. Swing voters are people who make conscious decisions about who they will vote for on criteria other than party affiliation. A partisan voter will cast his vote for his party's candidate, come hell or high water; a swing voter might cast his vote for either party's candidate, for a variety of reasons. Swing voters might vote for the candidate they think is most competent for the position; for the candidate they think is most dynamic and powerful; for the candidate they think is more attractive, or who is taller. Such people may have a party preference, but they are willing to vote across party lines for the right candidate.

In an ideal democracy, all voters would be conscientious swing voters, putting into power those people they think are most fit for office. Of course, that works against the interests of political parties, so political partisans tend to demonize swing voters as irrational or incompetent. Be wary of the things you hear...

  • Don't some partisans act as swing voters in primaries? For example, I could be persuaded to vote for a different candidate because they share my values more than the other one. Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 8:08
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    @NumberFile: Primaries are (as a rule) within-party decisions. That's not considered a swing-vote, because a partisan can choose between candidates of one party, while still being determined to vote for that party. Swing-votes are cross-party, almost by definition. Some states allow cross-party voting in primaries (e.g., a Democrat could vote for the Republican nominee, rather than the Dem nom), but that's normally called 'strategic voting', not swing voting. Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 8:18
  • In a way it is swing voting because instead of always siding with one wing of the party, you go back and forth within the party. I knew that they are intra-party decisions. Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 11:03
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    @NumberFile: I get your reasoning, and it makes sense; it's just not how the terms are used. Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 15:36

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