Put simply, swing states win US elections. A notable example of this was in 2000, when there was no clear winner on election night, between Republican candidate George W. Bush and incumbent vice president Al Gore, due to a tight margin in Florida. The votes were subsequently recounted, with Mr Bush eventually winning by a margin of just 0.009%.

Swing states are those where presidential candidates have a reasonable chance of winning against their rival, rather than other US states that traditionally vote either Democratic or Republican. Which way these states swing has a profound impact on the election outcome. As a result, they are typically where presidential campaigns focus their time and resources.


In 2016, Donald Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, but won due to a majority in the electoral college — a result that has been attributed to the swing states. With that logic, it would make sense for Mr Trump to have presided over a surge of inbound investment into these states.

Electoral analytics website FiveThirtyEight identified 12 swing states in the 2016 election, so how has inbound investment fared there since? 

fDi’s analysis finds that in almost all of these swing states, more foreign greenfield investment projects have been announced during Trump’s first three and a half years in office, compared with the same period during Barack Obama’s second term. 

Four swing states — Colorado, Nevada, Wisconsin and Virginia — posted 20% or more inbound projects in Mr Trump’s term than in Mr Obama’s second term, with an additional five states also seeing a rise in foreign investment.

Meanwhile, in the swing states Iowa and Minnesota, foreign investment projects fell by more than 14% under Trump compared with Obama’s second term. New Hampshire was the only state without any change in the number of foreign investment pledges. 

As this data indicates long-term commitments by foreign companies made in swing states — with actual capital investment and job creation typically spread over many months into the future — it is difficult to assess when tangible economic value is brought. Nonetheless, with Trump trailing Joe Biden in the polls across several swing states at time of writing, these could be another ‘win’ to add to Mr Trump’s allegorical trophy cabinet.

Part of a six-part feature that first appeared in the October/November edition of fDi Intelligence. View a digital edition of the magazine here