What makes Florida a “swing state?”

The state of Florida is known as one of the key battleground states for presidential politics. There are a large number of delegates at stake in Florida, and it always has a trick hidden in its sleeve.
In Florida there are 11 million people registered to vote, according to FloridaVoterFile.com. 41 percent of those 11 million are registered democrats; 35 percent are registered republican.
Gallup says Florida “leans left,” but in the 1988, 92, 2000 and 2004 elections the republican presidential candidate won the state. Bill Clinton won Florida once in 1996, and Barack Obama won in 2008.
Think back to the 2000 elections—Al Gore won the popular vote but did not become president. That means more Americans voted for him than for George W. Bush, but Bush won because he had more votes from the electoral colleges. Only three states have more electoral votes at stake than Florida—New York, California and Texas.
In 28 of 67 Florida counties, over 50 percent of residents are registered as democrats—explaining why Gallup named Florida a “left-leaning state.” There are only seven counties where more than 50 percent of residents are registered republicans. Seven counties have over 20 percent with no party affiliation—creating a key portion of the “battleground” population.
For example, there are only 749 more registered republicans in Hernando County than registered democrats. The county containing all Florida Keys—Monroe County—is the next swinger county. Monroe County only has 647 more registered republicans. That’s not as significant a difference as Hernando County because of total county population; there are 67,000 more people in Hernando County.
In Florida’s most populated county—Miami-Dade—there is a very high percentage of voters with no party affiliation. 20 percent are not affiliated with a party; 44 percent are registered democrats and 30.5 percent are registered republican.
Okaloosa County, county of Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Crestview, has the largest amount of republicans per capita in Florida. 57.4 percent of Okaloosa County voters are registered republicans.
Liberty County has the highest per capita percentage of registered Democrats—86.9 percent. Liberty County is also Florida’s least populated county, housing only 8,365 people—only 4,213 voters.
To examine why Florida is known as a political “swing state,” I’ll take a look at two very different counties in Florida—Leon and Collier.
Leon County is home to Tallahassee, the state’s capital city. Collier County is a county of similar population, although it has much more surface area than Leon County.
Collier County has 176,000 registered voters; Leon County has 177,000 voters. Leon and Collier counties are, however, polar opposites from one another. According to U.S. census data from 2010, population numbers rise as one increases the target age in Collier County. The inverse is true for Leon County. There are many more young people than old in Leon.
The same seems true for political preferences in each county. 25 percent of voters in Collier County are registered democrats; in Leon County, 27 percent of voters are republican—clear opposite.
In Collier County, 50 percent of voters are registered republican; Leon County is 56 percent democrat.
Here are two Florida counties with very similar population numbers, but very different residents.
With Jan. 31 being the Florida GOP primary date, it’s difficult to determine how many of Florida’s 4.6 million republicans will vote and for whom. In 2008 only 1.8 million voted in primary.


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