Finding the ‘Flippers’ in 2012 Vote

On average, 24 percent of U.S. counties change allegiance in a presidential election, voting for a different party than they did four years earlier. This year, only 208 counties (6.8%) flipped — a 100 year low.

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Barack Obama and Mitt Romney spent more than $1 billion each on their presidential campaigns.

The map above tells you what kind of change a couple of billion dollars will buy you in today’s America.

If the map looks largely blank to you, then you’re getting the picture. The map shows all the counties that switched allegiance between 2008 and 2012 — the counties that voted for one party four years ago and a different party in November.

There are exactly 208 of these counties — flippers, we call them. Only 208 counties changed allegiance in 2012 out of the more than 3,100 counties that cast votes.

President Obama’s campaign hired the brightest batch of social psychologists and social media experts the tech and academic worlds had to offer. They constructed complicated models predicting the behavior of individual voters and intricate social media strategies.

In the end, only 11 counties that favored John McCain in 2008 flipped in this election to support the Democrat. There were 197 counties that switched from Democrat in 2008 to Republican in 2012. 

Eight out of ten of the counties that flipped were either rural or exurban. Only 42 of the flippers were urban counties.

Statistician Robert Cushing checked all the presidential elections in the last 100 years and found that, on average, 24 percent of all counties switch parties from one election to the next.

The 208 counties that changed from 2008 to 2012 amounted to less than seven percent of all counties. That is the fewest flippers of any election in the last century.

In 2008, 380 counties flipped. See a map here

A large group of counties flipped from Democrat to Republican in the Upper Midwest. Twenty-six Michigan counties that voted Democratic in 2008 turned Republican in this election. Twenty-four counties in Wisconsin flipped Republican, as did 23 in Illinois and 16 in Iowa.

The map above shows all the flippers. Click on the map to see a larger version.



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