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October 19, 2020

What makes a swing state swing?


Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. To read the transcript of the video above, click here

Summary: Ohio, a swing state which Obama won in 2012, voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016. This election, the Biden campaign seems to have made some inroads in winning some of that lost support, reverting the state to a “swing state.” A swing state is a state targeted by presidential campaigns because it is believed to be a close race and could “swing” to either candidate. Because presidential election are determined by Electoral College votes, and because the winner of the popular vote from each state takes all the Electoral College votes from that state, swing states end up being very important targets for presidential campaigns. For more on why Ohio is a swing state and what that means, watch this video on PBS Learning Media


Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

    • Who is the story about?
    • What is a “swing state”?
    • When and where have the Trump and Biden presidential campaigns been focusing visits and advertisement money?
    • Why is Ohio such an important target for presidential campaigns?
    • How does the Electoral College system help turn states into swing states?

Then have students share with the class or through a Learning Management System (LMS).

Focus questions:

  1. Why do you think Ohio has been a swing state for so long?
  2. Do you think it’s fair that candidates for president end up targeting much of their campaigning toward swing states like Ohio? Why or why not?

Media literacy: Why do you think this report focuses on one swing state, Ohio, instead of all of them? Is your state a swing state? How could you find out, if you’re not sure?

Dig deeper: Without the Electoral College system, there would be no such thing as a “swing state”—the winner of the national popular vote would win the presidency. So why does the Electoral College exist? Check out these NewsHour EXTRA lessons to better understand the Electoral College, its purpose and how many votes each candidate will need to win.

  1. Lesson plan: Should the Electoral College stay or go?
  2. PBS electoral decoder interactive tool


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