Each major party flipped states in just two of the last 14 cycles since 1968

Barring an 11th hour exit by President Joe Biden from the 2024 presidential race, voters will be choosing from the same two major party nominees for the second consecutive cycle.

Despite this presumptive rematch, and even though the nation has seen a dearth of states flipping in presidential races in recent decades, it is all but assured the Electoral College map will not look identical to the one from 2020 as no two maps have looked the same in consecutive cycles since the dawn of the modern two-party era in 1828.

The nation is currently in the midst of the lowest percentage of states to flip over the last three cycles (8.7 percent), four cycles (11.0 percent), five cycles (10.0 percent), six cycles (12.0 percent), seven cycles (11.7 percent), eight cycles (15.8 percent), nine cycles (16.0 percent), and 10 cycles (15.4 percent).

Just five states flipped from 2016 to 2020 – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Of these five states, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin have the opportunity to do so for a third straight election this November.

Michigan would tie a state record with a Trump win; voters also changed the party for which they cast their Electoral College votes during three consecutive cycles in 1940 (Wendell Willkie), 1944 (Franklin Roosevelt), and 1948 (Thomas Dewey). All three contests were decided by less than two points.

Pennsylvanians last changed their partisan stripes in three cycles in 1972 (Richard Nixon), 1976 (Jimmy Carter), and 1980 (Ronald Reagan). The all-time state record is four straight cycles flipping between the Whigs and Democrats in 1840 (William Harrison), 1844 (James Polk), 1848 (Zachary Taylor), and 1852 (Franklin Pierce).

A Trump victory in Wisconsin would also tie a state record, with its voters flipping its presidential preference in three consecutive cycles twice before: in 1924 (Robert La Follette), 1928 (Herbert Hoover), and 1932 (Roosevelt) and 1944 (Dewey), 1948 (Harry Truman), and 1952 (Dwight Eisenhower).

Wisconsin – perhaps the definitive battleground state over the last generation – has switched its partisan preference in presidential elections at the second highest rate in the country since 1828, doing so in 18 of 43 opportunities (41.9 percent).

New York ranks the highest by this measure at 45.8 percent (22 of 48).

Recent presidential election history also tells us it is unlikely we will see both major parties win a state this November that they lost four years ago.

Across the 14 cycles since 1968, there have only been two in which both states made inroads: 1996 and 2004.

In 1996, Bob Dole picked off three states won by Bill Clinton in 1992 (Colorado, Georgia, Montana) while Clinton flipped two others he lost four years prior (Arizona and Florida).

In 2004, President George W. Bush picked up two states he lost to Al Gore (Iowa and New Mexico) while Senator John Kerry flipped New Hampshire to the Democrats.

With that in mind, should Trump win back at least a few battleground states in 2024, it is unlikely to expect Biden and the Democrats could counterpunch and flip a few of their own.

Overall, slightly more than one-quarter of states have flipped cycle-to-cycle since 1828 (566 out of 2,050 elections, or 27.6 percent).

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1 Comments

  1. Geoff Gamble on July 8, 2024 at 9:48 pm

    – “Each party flipped…since 1968” *___in the same presidential election cycle___*

    – If both parties were to snare states away, I would venture to surmise that the ‘MAGA’ ticket will most likely take away Georgia (unlike AZ, NV, PA, and WI, Republicans hold every single state constitutional post; as well, the D ticket will not have Raphael Warnock as ticketmate, who in 2020 helped augment Black and urban core turnout across the state), whereas the the Democratic ticket will most likely take away North Carolina (with very controversial R nominees for school superintendent and governor; unlike 2020 and 2016, the R ticket will not have a ticketmate for a US senate seat).

    – The Omaha-anchored NE-02 (which apparently will have a stand-alone EC vote this cycle!) has switched in three consecutive cycles, in 2004 (Bush 43-Cheney), 2008, (BHO-Biden), and 2012 (Romney-Ryan). Will 2024 make for another streak?

    – By contrast, the geographically vast ME-02 seems a lost cause for the D ticket for the forseeable future – even with, say, MI Governor Whitmer or even KY Governor Beshear as a presidential nominee.

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