The Silliness Around Swing States

Photograph by Jaclyn Sollars/Getty Images

As much as the media loves to work itself into a lather over which way voters are leaning in “swing states,” aka “battleground states” or “toss-ups,” the media itself is completely undecided about where those states are.

The Huffington Post says there are only three of them. National Journal figures there to be 16.

The Washington Post, the New York Times, ABC, and RealClearPolitics each say there are eight states where neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney has a clear lead—but the news outlets don’t agree on which eight.

Eric Ostermeier, author of the Smart Politics blog at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, came up with the tallies after diving into a dozen news outlets’ election coverage so far this year. According to his analysis, the media agree on only two states that are too close to call: Florida and Virginia.

Journalists love to obsess over the political horse race, but Ostermeier’s study shows how meaningless all that speculation can sound to average voters. The takeaway from that kind of coverage is essentially: There will be an election on Nov. 6. Voters in some states will choose Obama; other voters, Romney. One of them will win!

Who didn’t know that already?

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