One thing that I have noticed looking back on recent years' electoral maps is the swing at the state level.

There is something that I noticed. In the past, states swung in different directions more than they do now. For example, the biggest swing towards Kerry was in Vermont, a small and socially liberal anti war state. It went 13% against the national popular swing. Then, in 2020, the biggest swing towards Trump was in Hawaii, which was only 5% against the national popular vote.

2000-2004 swing:

swing map 1

2016-2020 swing reversed for comparison purposes:

swing map 2

I chose 2000 to 2004 because the popular vote margin change nationally was similar. It provides a good demonstration. Bush pushed the entire lower Northeast towards his side (he still lost there), and the western US from Washington state to Minnesota moved against him.

Why is there significantly less deviation on the 2016 to 2020 swing map than 2000 to 2004 despite the 2000-2004 and 2016-2020 swings being similar?

  • 3
    Does not "generally higher levels of partisanship" not explain this?
    – James K
    Apr 25, 2021 at 16:05
  • That is one answer I thought of, I just want to make sure Apr 25, 2021 at 18:03

1 Answer 1


The 2016 and 2020 elections involved exactly the same candidates for President and Vice President on the Republican side of the ballot, candidates who were representing the same faction of the Democratic party on the other, and no truly significant third-party candidates. Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden (both of whom were politically prominent enough to run for President in substantial part due to their connections with President Bill Clinton) had a lot in common. With very similar lineups, the swings should be expected to be modest.

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