From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A bellwether is a leader or an indicator of trends.[1]

In politics, the term often applies in a metaphorical sense to characterize a geographic region where political tendencies match in microcosm those of a wider area, such that the result of an election in the former region might predict the eventual result in the latter. In economics, a 'bellwether' is a leading indicator of an economic trend.[1][2]

Sociologists apply the term in the active sense to a person or group of people who tend to create, influence, or set trends.


A bellwether sheep, with a bell around its neck

The term derives from the Middle English bellewether, which referred to the practice of placing a bell around the neck of a castrated ram (a wether) leading a flock of sheep. A shepherd could then note the movements of the animals by hearing the bell, even when the flock was not in sight.[3]

The word was first used in the above meaning in the 15th century.[3]

In economics[edit]

In the world of economics and finance, a 'bellwether' is a leading indicator of an economic trend.[1][2]

In the stock market, a 'bellwether' is a company or stock taken to be a leading indicator of the direction in a sector, in an industry or in the market as a whole. Bellwether stocks therefore serve as short-term guides. JPMorgan Chase is a U.S. example of a bellwether. As one of the major banks in the United States, its stock sets the tone for the rest of the banking industry. JPMorgan Chase also has contracts with companies in other industries, so its performance is reflected in other sectors of the market. Tata Consultancy Services is similarly a bellwether for technology stocks in the Indian markets, BSE and NSE.[2]

Similarly, a bellwether bond is "a government bond whose changes in interest rate are believed to show the future direction of the rest of the bond market."[4]

The quarterly Bellwether Report, published by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), monitors trends in expenditure in the UK advertising and marketing industry.

In law[edit]

In politics[edit]

Map highlighting in red five bellwethers who since 1965 every seven years have swung to the President in the second (final) round of the Présidentielles. All these are within Metropolitan France, on the mainland of Europe. Loire, in the south-west is the most populous, close to Lyon.

In politics, the term bellwether often applies in a metaphorical sense to characterize a geographic region where political tendencies match in microcosm those of a wider area, such that the result of an election in the former region might predict the eventual result in the latter. In a Westminster-style election, for example, a constituency, the control of which tends frequently to change, can have a popular vote that mirrors the result on a national scale.

An electoral bellwether can be a ward, precinct, town, county, or other district that accurately reflects how a geographic region (state, province, etc.) will vote during elections. Bellwethers in the United States typically change every election cycle due to shifts in the electorate. Bellwethers also differ by the type of elections: a midterm bellwether differs from a presidential bellwether or a party primary bellwether.[5][6]

American statistician and political scientist Edward Tufte and his student Richard Sun defined electoral bellwethers (in the US) into the following categories:[6]


In Australian federal elections, the Division of Robertson in New South Wales became the nation's new longest-running bellwether seat, continuously won by the party that also won government since the 1983 federal election.

Previously, the electoral division of Eden-Monaro elected its Member of Parliament from the party which won government at every federal election from 1972 until 2016, when the record was broken after Labor won the seat, while the Coalition won government. The Division of Lindsay in NSW, has elected its Member of Parliament from the party which won government in every Federal election since its creation in 1984 until 2016. Both Lindsay and Eden-Monaro lost their bellwether status at the 2016 federal election, both electing Labor MPs, despite a narrow Coalition win nationwide.

The Division of Makin in South Australia was a bellwether division from 1984 to 2010, although ceased its bellwether record in 2013, when Makin stayed Labor as the Coalition regained power nationwide. Also, in terms of nationwide two party preferred vote, Eden-Monaro, Lindsay, Robertson and Makin have bucked the bellwether trend in the past by voting Liberal at the 1998 federal election. In purely statistical terms, the state of New South Wales, which has the largest population of any Australian state or territory, could also be considered a "bellwether", as, until the 2016 federal election the party which wins government has won the majority of House of Representatives seats in that state at every election since 1963. Unlike many bellwethers, these are cited by analysts solely for their record and are not usually attributed to demographic factors that reflect the median of Australia.


In the Canadian province of Ontario, Sarnia—Lambton (and its predecessor ridings) voted for the winning party in every federal election from 1963 until 2011. This streak was broken in 2015, when the Conservative Party held the district while the Liberal Party won government, and the riding has become reliably Conservative since. Toronto—St. Paul's has only elected three opposition MPs since it contested its first election, as St. Paul's, in 1935, although it has become reliably Liberal in recent years. Burlington and St. Catharines currently share the longest active streak, having elected a member from the winning party since 1984. Also in Ontario, Peterborough—Kawartha (called Peterborough until 2015) has consistently elected the party which has won the provincial election since 1977. In federal politics, Peterborough—Kawartha (also called Peterborough until 2015) elected a member of the winning party from 1965 to 1979 and 1984 until 2021, inclusive.

In Alberta, the provincial electoral district Peace River has elected only three opposition MLAs since the province was founded in 1905.

In Manitoba, the federal district of Winnipeg South has voted for the winning party in each election since it was re-formed in 1988; a previous version of the same riding, which elected MPs from 1917 until 1974 inclusive, voted against the national winner only three times. Also in Manitoba, the provincial riding of Rossmere, which has existed since 1969, has voted for the candidate from the governing party in every election since it was first contested except for the 1977 general election and a 1993 by-election.


Since the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany (then West Germany) in 1949, the state where the leading party list vote (Zweitstimmen) matched the party of the subsequently chosen Chancellor the most times is Schleswig-Holstein (with two misses: 1969 and 2005), followed by the state of Lower Saxony (with misses in 1949, 1969 and 2005). Both states lie in the North of the country, neither containing many large industrial cities (the biggest being Kiel and Hannover respectively), nor large rural Catholic populations, the traditional base of the SPD and CDU/CSU respectively. Schleswig-Holstein is also famous for having had several state elections result in a one-seat majority for the winning coalition and Lower Saxony's 1998 election (in which Gerhard Schröder was the SPD candidate) is often seen as a "trial run" for the subsequent federal election (which Schröder also won). Both the 1949 and the 1969 elections were rather narrow, the former resulting in a one-vote majority in the election for chancellor and the latter resulting in a 12-seat majority that had broken down due to defections by 1972. In 2005 SPD and CDU/CSU were only separated by one percentage point and four seats in the final tally. In the 2021 German federal election the SPD placed first in 12 out of 16 states, including Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony as well as federally while being led by former First Mayor of Hamburg, Olaf Scholz, the State of Hamburg borders both Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, but Scholz did not run in Hamburg during that election, instead representing the District Potsdam – Potsdam-Mittelmark II – Teltow-Fläming II in Brandenburg (where he incidentally ran against Annalena Baerbock candidate for chancellor of Alliance 90/The Greens, drawing additional media attention to the District).


Two individual seats, Valsad and West Delhi, have successfully voted for the victorious party for the last eleven general elections in India.[7] Furthermore, the party that wins the majority of seats in Delhi has always gone on to form the national government since 1998.[8]

The state of Uttar Pradesh is also seen as a bellwether, with the national government having been formed the majority of times by the party that won the most seats in the state.[9]


Ireland has a proportional representation electoral system, in which politicians are elected by the single transferable vote. Bellwethers here can only be measured by the number of candidates from each side elected to Ireland's multiple-seat constituencies that elect an odd number of members. Between the 1981 general election and 2011 general election, Meath and its successors, Meath East and Meath West, have elected a majority of Fianna Fáil TDs in years when Fianna Fáil formed the government, and a majority of Fine Gael and Labour TDs when those parties formed the government.

New Zealand[edit]

In New Zealand, there are three generally accepted bellwether electorates: Hamilton East and Hamilton West, both based around the city of Hamilton,[10] and Northcote on Auckland's North Shore.[11] Hamilton West and Northcote missed one election each since they were first contested in 1969 and 1996 respectively — the 1993 election for Hamilton West and the 2005 election for Northcote. Hamilton East, first contested in 1972, has missed three elections — 1993, 1999, and 2005. They were all held by the National Party in the 2017 election although Labour formed the government after the election. Since the National Party was still returned as the largest party in Parliament, however, the two electorates did in fact retain their bellwether status, albeit to a limited extent.


In the Philippines, the winner of Philippine presidential election has won in Negros Oriental in all instances since 1935 except for 1961 and 2016, and in Basilan since its creation in December 1973 (first election in 1981). After Negros Oriental voted for the runner-up in 2016, Agusan del Norte and Lanao del Sur have the longest active streak, having its provincial winners be the elected president since the 1969 election.

For vice presidential elections, Pangasinan has voted for the winner in all elections save for 1986 and 2016.


In every general election to the Portuguese National Assembly since the restoration of democracy in 1975, the electoral district of Braga has voted for the party or coalition that has won the most seats in the election. (Note that following the elections of 2015, a minority government was eventually formed by the second-largest party in the Assembly.)

In every general, European Union, mayoral (except 2009), or presidential elections since the Carnation Revolution, the Portuguese capital of Lisbon voted for the party or coalition that won more percentage in the elections.


Presidential elections

The counties that voted in the first round for the winning candidate:


The expression "Som Ljungby röstar röstar Sverige" ('As Ljungby votes, Sweden votes') was coined in the early-1970s, but more recently (in 2006) voting results in Karlstad, Kalmar, and Halmstad more closely resembled the result of the whole nation in elections to the Riksdag.[12]

According to Statistics Sweden, election results in Karlstad have been closest to the national results for three consecutive elections, a fact often highlighted by media through Gallup Polls showing voting intentions in the area.[13][12]

United Kingdom[edit]

United Kingdom constituencies of the House of Commons all see a change at least every few decades to avoid malapportionment, apart from a few island seats. It is possible to dispute any long-term bellwether, citing such changes. However, those below have kept the bulk of their electors in the main, named constituency identified with the place they are named after.

Long-running bellwether constituencies

Former bellwether constituencies

While not strictly a bellwether, Sunderland South was often used in election programming to predict the swing of a general election - principally because it was often the first to declare - with variable results.

London Borough elections[edit]

Since Greater London formed during 1964–1965, Hammersmith and Fulham London Borough Council elections have matched those of the party who run (usually with the GLA, or more lately Mayor of London and Assembly) the most London authorities except went its "miss" to Labour's majority of London councils in 2010 (which has endured since) and the reverse miss in 1978 and 1982. In the latter two results no overall control was the local result.

Scottish Parliament[edit]

The constituencies of Cunninghame North, Stirling and Na h-Eileanan an Iar have all elected MSPs from the party which won the plurality of seats in the election overall for every Scottish Parliament election.

Also, the constituencies of Almond Valley, Dundee City West, Edinburgh Eastern, Glasgow Southside, Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley and Mid Fife and Glenrothes each elected an MSP from the largest party in the 2011 and 2016 elections. This continues the trend that their predecessor constituencies (Livingston, Dundee West, Edinburgh East & Musselburgh, Glasgow Govan, Kilmarnock & Loudoun and Fife Central) achieved in the 1999, 2003 and 2007 elections.

Welsh Parliament[edit]

The following constituencies (as of the 2021 election) have elected MSs from the party which won the plurality of seats in the election overall for every Senedd (and former Assembly) election since 1999:

As Labour has won the most seats since the Welsh Assembly was founded in 1999, this is a list of seats which have always voted Labour.

United States[edit]

The American states with the current longest streak of voting for the winners in the electoral college are Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin; their streaks date back to only 2008. The American bellwether states can also be determined in different ways (with respect to presidential elections):

Highest percentage for varying lengths of time

Highest percentage for a set length of time

Electoral record of the states for presidential elections, 1896–2020:[15]

  • Ohio – 29 wins out of 32 elections (90.6%)
  • New Mexico – 25 wins out of 28 elections (89.3%)
  • Illinois – 27 wins out of 32 elections (84.4%)
  • Nevada – 27 wins out of 32 elections (84.4%)

Highest percentage of the current party system, 1980-2020

Smallest deviation from the national average

Another way to measure how much a state's results reflect the national average is how far the state deviates from the national results. The states with the least deviation from a two-party presidential vote from 1896 to 2012[16] include:

  • Ohio – 2.2%
  • New Mexico – 2.8%
  • Illinois – 3.6%
  • Missouri – 3.7%
  • Delaware – 3.7%

States that were considered bellwether states from the mid-to-late 20th century include:

States that were bellwether states a very long time ago include:

The Territory of Guam had no misses from 1984 to 2012 (100.0%); it lacks electoral college votes, but conducts a presidential straw vote on local election day.

From 1996 through 2012, Ohio was within 1.85% of the national popular vote result.[20] Due to the Electoral College system, bellwethers of sufficient size form the focus of political attention and presidential campaigns as swing states. As of 2016, Ohio and, with almost double its electors, Florida were seen by political pundits and national campaigns as the most important swing states due to their large number of electoral votes and politically mixed breakdown. No Republican has won the presidency while losing Ohio, so the party campaigns there intensively. In 2000, the presidential election inadvertently led to the abolition of varied machines intra-state for vote counting in Bush v. Gore in which Bush's team saw off the pending recount of some Florida votes, that has been later proven to have been almost certain to have, likewise, seen a Bush win. A full-state recount could have restored the votes of thousands of older voters whose dimpled and double-voted ballots were indecipherable to machines but would have been clear in a ballot-by-ballot review.[21] In the 2020 election Joe Biden defeated incumbent Donald Trump without winning either state. He won Arizona, which no other Democratic candidate had won since 1996, and Georgia (of similar population size to Ohio), which none had since 1992 meaning the number of swing states has increased and a winning Democratic campaign could, potentially, focus much less on Ohio and Florida.



In Brazil's direct presidential elections the winner has taken the state of Minas Gerais in the last-round from 1955 to 2022, inclusive.[22] It has more than 21 million residents, includes Belo Horizonte and has been birthplace of the record of nine presidents to date.[23] The state has 10.1% of the population. It is varied in topography and larger than Metropolitan France.


Since the substantial role began in 1958, under the French Fifth Republic, the president has since 1965 in the final (second) round always won: diminutive Ardèche and with about double its population each, Calvados, Charente-Maritime, Indre-et-Loire and Loire.[24][25] Together these account for more than 3 million residents. Each combines urban with rural and many touristic sites.

South Korea[edit]

Since the 1987 presidential election, the central, thus somewhat mountainous, province of North Chungcheong is the only one of the 17 first-tier divisions in which the most voted candidate for the presidency has consistently become the national winner. It has more than one and half million residents.


Since democracy was restored in 1977, up to 2019 two provinces have always voted for the winning party (Zaragoza and Huesca). The Autonomous Community of Aragon hosts these provinces. Aragon is, moreover, the sole Autonomous Community to have done so.[26] It has more than a million residents and combines much rural land with mountains and socially diverse urban communities.


From the first competitive multi-party elections in 1996, Changhua County, a west coast region of Taiwan of more than a million residents, is where the preference has matched the elected President.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "bellwether." Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved 2022-01-22.
  2. ^ a b c "Bellwether". Investopedia. Retrieved 2022-01-22.
  3. ^ a b "Definition of BELLWETHER". Retrieved 2022-01-22.
  4. ^ "bellwether bond." Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved 2022-01-22.
  5. ^ "The Bellwether Model - Suffolk University". Retrieved 2022-01-22.
  6. ^ a b Berkes, Howard (2008-10-24). "What Is An Election Bellwether?". NPR. Retrieved 2022-01-22.
  7. ^ "Lok Sabha polls: A look at India's bellwether seats — whoever wins these, wins the election". Moneycontrol.
  8. ^ Prabhash K. Dutta New (May 11, 2019). "With just 7 Lok Sabha seats, Delhi decides who becomes PM". India Today.
  9. ^ "Will Uttar Pradesh be 'bellwether' or exception again?". Business Standard India. May 20, 2019 – via Business Standard.
  10. ^ Ihaka, James (13 October 2008). "Eyes on tussle in bellwether seat". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  11. ^ Shepheard, Nicola (7 September 2008). "Street shows swing voters". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  12. ^ a b "Som Karlstad röstar, röstar Sverige Archived 2017-03-26 at the Wayback Machine", Statistiska Centralbyrån, 6 March 2006. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
  13. ^ "Karlstad röstar som Sverige | Forskning & Framsteg | Populärvetenskapligt magasin". September 2006. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
  14. ^ "Parliamentary bellwether Nuneaton votes strongly for Leave". Reuters (editorial). 24 June 2016. Retrieved 2016-09-17.
  15. ^ Kondik, Kyle (2016). The Bellwether – Why Ohio Picks The President. Ohio University Press. p. 22. Political scientists have long regarded 1896 as a seminal, realigning election.
  16. ^ Kondik, Kyle (2016). The Bellwether – Why Ohio Picks The President. Ohio University Press. p. 23.
  17. ^ Sullivan, Robert David (8 June 2015). "How Delaware Lost its Bellwether Mojo and Joined the Northeast Corridor". America Magazine. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  18. ^ Shesgreen, Deirdre (24 June 2012). "Missouri slips from political bellwether status this fall". USA Today. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  19. ^ Everson, David (February 1990). "Illinois as a bellwether: So what?". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  20. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections".
  21. ^ Fessenden, Ford. "Ballots Cast by Blacks and Older Voters Were Tossed in Far Greater Numbers", The New York Times (November 12, 2001).
  22. ^ "Category:Brazilian presidential election maps - Wikimedia Commons".
  23. ^ Gabriel Maia; Gabriel Zanlorenssi; Rodolfo Almeida (28 February 2018). "Os presidentes do Brasil: mandato, formação, cidade e idade". Nexo Jornal. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  24. ^ "L'élection présidentielle en France - Politiquemania".
  25. ^ "Résultats pour Marine Le Pen au second tour de l'élection présidentielle 2022 en France : 2nd tour".
  26. ^ "Election Resources on the Internet: Elections to the Spanish Congress of Deputies".