Policy & Law
Today, citizens across the US are casting their ballots, hoping to tip the balance of their state to red or blue, but few stop to wonder from where the concepts of "red" and "blue" states stem. According to Smithsonian Magazine, red did not always denote the Republican party and blue wasn't always symbolic of Democrats — this now-common lexicon only dates back to the 2000 election.
In 1976, NBC debuted its first election map on the air, with bulbs that turned red for Carter-won states (Democratic), and blue for Ford (Republican). This original color scheme was based on Great Britain's political system, which used red to denote the more liberal party. However, other stations used different colors and designations for a variety of ideological and aesthetic reasons, which often differed from person to person.
"It was a more natural association."
The color coding we're familiar with today didn't stick until the iconic (and extremely lengthy) election of 2000, when The New York Times and USA Today published their first full-color election maps. The Times spread used red for Republicans because "red begins with r, Republican begins with r," said the senior graphics editor Archie Tse, "it was a more natural association." The election, which didn't end until mid-December, firmly established Democrats as the blue party and Republicans as the red — denotations which will likely hold fast for some time to come.
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