The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Two maps document America’s incredible political transformation

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A lot of things have changed since 1976, and presidential politics is one of them. Just look at the difference between the two maps below, which break down the popular vote for president by county in the 1976 presidential election:

and the 2012 presidential election:

The 1976 election pitted Jimmy Carter, the former governor of Georgia, against incumbent Gerald Ford, who took office after Richard Nixon resigned. Carter, whose status as a Washington outsider appealed to voters following the Watergate scandal, won 50.1 percent of the popular vote with 23 states plus Washington, D.C., while Ford won 27 states and 48 percent of the popular vote.

However, the states that went Democrat or Republican aren’t what we think of as “blue states” and “red states” today. In part due to his southern heritage, Carter won all of the Deep South, but failed to capture many states in the Northeast. Ford carried Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and the West coast – all of which went blue in the 2012 presidential election.

In total, 27 states swapped from red to blue or vice versa between the two elections, especially in the South and Northeast.

An earlier version of this post included a map for the 2008 presidential election, rather than 2012 election. The map has been updated.

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