Since 1832, at least one state with 10+ Electoral College votes has flipped from the previous cycle in 43 of 45 elections; the largest flipped state in that cycle has voted for the winner 36 times

barackobama05.jpg

The aftermath of the 2010 U.S. Census found Barack Obama six electoral votes shy of his 2008 tally based on the states he won heading into the newly apportioned 2012 electoral map.

However, as most presidential contests are not decided by a few Electoral College votes, the president’s campaign is, of course, most concerned about losing one (or more) of the elector-rich battleground states he carried in 2008 – namely Florida and Ohio.

While there are certainly theoretical mathematical scenarios in which a Republican challenger could win the White House without taking back Florida or Ohio, the likelihood for Obama is that if one of them switches to the GOP, other battleground states will follow suit.

And what is the likelihood of seeing at least one elector-rich state swing back to the Republican Party in 2012?

A Smart Politics study of every presidential election since 1832 finds that at least one state with 10 or more Electoral College votes has changed its presidential party preference from the previous election in 43 out of 45 cycles, and at least one state with 20 or more votes has switched in 35 cycles.

Only the Elections of 1908 (Nebraska, 8 votes) and 2004 (Iowa, 7 votes) saw each of the nation’s states with 10 or more electoral votes hold serve in back-to-back cycles.

Given its very large population and competitive partisan makeup for generations, New York has by far led the way on this dimension – owning the largest cycle-to-cycle switch in the presidential vote for 22 of these 45 elections.

New York was the most elector-rich state to flip for a five-cycle stretch from 1840-1856, for a record eight consecutive cycle stretch from 1868-1896, and for a three-cycle stretch from 1972-1980: in 1840, 1844, 1848, 1852, 1856, 1868, 1872, 1876, 1880, 1884, 1888, 1892, 1896, 1912, 1916, 1932, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1976, 1980, and 1988.

New York is followed by:

· Ohio with three elections: 1836, 1920, 1944
· California with three: 1964, 1968, 1992
· Florida with three: 1996, 2000, 2008
· Kentucky with three: 1832, 1900, 1924
· Missouri with three: 1864, 1904, 1956
· Pennsylvania with two: 1860, 1936
· Iowa with one: 2004
· Georgia with one: 1984
· Illinois with one: 1952
· Michigan with one: 1940
· Nebraska with one: 1908
· Texas with one: 1928

(Note: In 1864, Kentucky tied Missouri with the largest electoral vote flip at 11 by voting Democratic after voting Constitutional Union in 1860. In 1924, Wisconsin tied Kentucky with the largest electoral vote flip at 13 by voting Progressive after voting Republican in 1920. The above tallies denote flips between major parties).

But is there any significance to which political party enjoys the fruits of the biggest electoral vote switch in a given cycle?

Since 1832, the winning presidential candidate has netted the largest ‘flipped state’ 71 percent of the time (32 cycles), including 12 of the last 13 cycles since 1960.

The only instances in which the most elector rich state that switched parties went to the losing presidential candidate were 1832 (Kentucky), 1836 (Ohio), 1856 (New York), 1868 (New York), 1876 (New York), 1900 (Kentucky), 1908 (Nebraska), 1916 (New York), 1940 (Michigan), 1944 (Ohio), 1948 (New York), 1956 (Missouri), and 1988 (New York).

When the electoral vote of the largest flipped state was 25 or higher, the winning presidential candidate carried the state in 25 of 32 cycles (78 percent of the time).

With four of the top five most populous states virtual locks for Democratic (California, New York, Illinois) and Republican (Texas) presidential candidates in 2012, the ‘big flip’ is therefore most likely to come from Florida or Ohio, with an outside shot at Pennsylvania, Michigan, or North Carolina.

This presumes, of course, that President Obama does not build on his landslide victory from 2008.

States with the Largest Electoral Vote Swing from the Previous Presidential Election Cycle, 1832-2008

Year
State
Votes
From
To
Winner
2008
Florida
27
GOP
Democrat
Yes
2004
Iowa
7
Democrat
GOP
Yes
2000
Florida
25
Democrat
GOP
Yes
1996
Florida
25
GOP
Democrat
Yes
1992
California
54
GOP
Democrat
Yes
1988
New York
36
GOP
Democrat
No
1984
Georgia
12
Democrat
GOP
Yes
1980
New York
41
Democrat
GOP
Yes
1976
New York
41
GOP
Democrat
Yes
1972
New York
41
Democrat
GOP
Yes
1968
California
40
Democrat
GOP
Yes
1964
California
40
GOP
Democrat
Yes
1960
New York
45
GOP
Democrat
Yes
1956
Missouri
13
GOP
Democrat
No
1952
Illinois
27
Democrat
GOP
Yes
1948
New York
47
Democrat
GOP
No
1944
Ohio
25
Democrat
GOP
No
1940
Michigan
19
Democrat
GOP
No
1936
Pennsylvania
36
GOP
Democrat
Yes
1932
New York
47
GOP
Democrat
Yes
1928
Texas
20
Democrat
GOP
Yes
1924**
Kentucky
13
Democrat
GOP
Yes
1920
Ohio
24
Democrat
GOP
Yes
1916
New York
45
Democrat
GOP
No
1912
New York
45
GOP
Democrat
Yes
1908
Nebraska
8
GOP
Democrat
No
1904
Missouri
18
Democrat
GOP
Yes
1900
Kentucky
13
GOP
Democrat
No
1896
New York
36
Democrat
GOP
Yes
1892
New York
36
GOP
Democrat
Yes
1888
New York
36
Democrat
GOP
Yes
1884
New York
36
GOP
Democrat
Yes
1880
New York
35
Democrat
GOP
Yes
1876
New York
35
GOP
Democrat
Yes
1872
New York
35
Democrat
GOP
No
1868
New York
33
GOP
Democrat
No
1864*
Missouri
11
Democrat
GOP
Yes
1860
Pennsylvania
27
Democrat
GOP
Yes
1856
New York
35
Democrat
GOP
No
1852
New York
35
Whig
Democrat
Yes
1848
New York
36
Democrat
Whig
Yes
1844
New York
36
Whig
Democrat
Yes
1840
New York
42
Democrat
Whig
Yes
1836
Ohio
21
Democrat
Whig
No
1832
Kentucky
15
Democrat
Nat. Rep.
No

* In 1864, Kentucky tied Missouri with the largest electoral vote flip at 11 by voting Democratic after voting Constitutional Union in 1860. ** In 1924, Wisconsin tied Kentucky with the largest electoral vote flip at 13 by voting Progressive after voting Republican in 1920. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

Follow Smart Politics on Twitter.

2 Comments

  1. A.L. Rockwell on July 14, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Eric:

    This is a very interesting article. It seems as though Ohio would be the biggest threat for Obama, politically speaking. While the Governor in Ohio is holding very unfavorable ratings right now, the jobs market might flip Ohio to the Republicans. Same for the housing market in Florida (but also with a very unpopular Republican governor).

    My prediction…Everything stays the same but Indiana flips.

    A.L. Rockwell



  2. Nikoli Orr on June 29, 2019 at 8:55 am

    NC also ended up flipping in ’12, as well as the smallest (acreage-wise) district of NE. If “tariffman” were to lose either of the aforementioned next year (IN seems safe even if Pence got dumped from the ticket) the US would assuredly have a new president come late January of 2021 – and Tarheel State nearly certainly with a new D US senator a few weeks prior.