NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 8, 2005

The recent swings in the political fortunes of presidential candidates representing "red" and "blue" states have pointed up the increased significance of changing demographics for national election outcomes. Using recent Census Bureau population projections, the Brookings Institution's William H. Frey charts their potential effect on electoral votes.

Between 1970 and 2030 the Electoral College will transform from near Snow Belt-Sun Belt parity to sheer Sun Belt dominance:

  • When Richard Nixon was re-elected in 1972, states in the Northeast and Midwest Snow Belt regions held only four less Electoral College electors than those in the South and West Sun Belt: 267 to 271.
  • However, it is projected that after the 2030 census reapportionment of Congress, the Sun Belt will have a 146 elector advantage.

The states gaining and losing the most Electoral College electors between now and 2030 are among the nation's largest states:

  • The largest Electoral College gainers are Florida and Texas gaining nine and eight electors respectively.
  • The greatest loser is projected to be New York, whose electoral college representation will be diminished by six.
  • As a result, the most Electoral College rich states: California, Texas and Florida will all be in the Sun Belt.

The biggest Sun Belt Electoral College gains, assuming 2004 election results, would be in "purple states," which did not vote decisively Democratic or Republican:

  • Sun Belt states where Bush or Kerry did not win decisively will gain 14 new electors, compared with gains of 13 for "solid red" and two for "solid blue" Sun Belt states.
  • These 10 "purple" states include Florida, Virginia, Colorado and Nevada.
  • Most are growing from Hispanic-dominated immigration as well as from large flows of new domestic migrants, whose voting preferences could swing in either direction.

Source: "Primary Source: The Purpling of America," Atlantic, November 2005; based upon: William H. Frey, "The Electoral College Moves to the Sun Belt," Brookings Institution, May 2005.

For Atlantic text:


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