Explained: Why only a handful of votes will decide the 2024 US election

At least six elections have usually been decided by fewer than 300,000 votes.


Analysts say the United States is a vibrant democracy of 330 million people, yet the next president in the increasingly polarized nation will be decided by only a few thousand votes.

Landslide presidential elections were once common, but since Ronald Reagan won 49 of the 50 states against Walter Mondale in 1984, no candidate has won the popular vote by double digits.

Jumping forward four decades, the race for the White House looks like a farce, with the results of most states beyond doubt before voting and only a few truly competitive states receiving fewer votes for candidates on Election Day.

“It surprises me that Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin and Georgia will play a particularly big role in this election,” David Darmofel, vice president of political science at the University of South Carolina, told AFP.

“So those suburban counties in Wisconsin, but also Milwaukee County, will be very important, as will the Las Vegas suburbs and Clark County, Maricopa County in Arizona, and Fulton County in Georgia, as well as surrounding counties like Cobb and DeKalb.” ..”

Darmofal says that where once you might have found conservatives voting Democratic and even liberals occasionally ticketing Republican, the modern electorate is far more tribal.

‘less elastic’

He said, “It is more difficult today for Democrats to go much further back than in 1984 or for parties to lose support with such an ideologically organized and more engaged electorate.”

“The electorate is less flexible in its preferences election by election than in the past.”

The historical record attests to Darmophal’s point of view.

According to the campaign group National Popular Vote, a dozen elections in the 20th century were considered to have overwhelming majority votes, but six elections since then were generally decided by an average of less than 300,000 votes in three states.

“Elections are closer because both parties have learned to use social media and micro-targeting to mobilize organized groups of voters and they have learned to discredit opponents,” said Jeremy Suri, professor of public affairs and history at the University of Texas. have taken.” Austin.

“It creates a divisive two-sided debate, and that makes it difficult for both sides to build a consensus.”

For national security analyst and former intelligence officer Matt Shoemaker, the enormous brand recognition of former president and current Republican candidate Donald Trump explains much of the voter turnout over the last decade.

“Everyone knows who he is and has an opinion about him that will severely limit swing votes or the number of people on the fence about what they think about him or who to vote for,” he told AFP. Unsure about it.”

another close election

Seven states were decided in 2020 by less than three points – Arizona, which was the closest battleground state, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball, an influential politics website produced at the University of Virginia, has identified four states similar to Darmofel’s as “toss-up” states in the 2024 cycle.

Arizona – the largest Sun Belt battleground, where a significant chunk of suburban Phoenix voters often make up the difference – was decided by about 10,000 votes, and Georgia’s margin was less than 12,000.

In Wisconsin — deeply Trump country in rural areas but Democrat-friendly in the Milwaukee suburbs — the margin has been less than a single point in four of the last six polls.

Nevada has been more reliably Democratic, where Trump lost to Hillary Clinton and then Biden by 27,000 and 34,000 votes, respectively, but things are going strong in the Silver State.

Crystal Ball managing director Kyle Kondik wrote that the Democratic nominee – almost certainly Biden – will start 2024 closer to the 270 “electoral votes” required under the state-by-state Electoral College system than his Republican rival.

“But with some really competitive states and a relatively high floor for both parties,” he said, “our best guess is another close and competitive presidential election next year.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV Staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)