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How the Media Quietly Changed Colors for Republicans and Democrats in the USA – Republicans Suddenly Became Red while Democrats Blue

The change in color identification of Republicans from blue to red primarily occurred in connection with the 2000 U.S. presidential election. Television networks such as CNN, MSNBC, and NBC used blue to denote Republicans and red for Democrats in previous elections. However, during the 2000 election, particularly after the prolonged vote count in Florida, NBC recolored Republicans as red to avoid confusion with the red used to denote states voting for Al Gore. This became a more widely accepted standard, which was subsequently adopted by other television networks and publications.

The media changed the color of Republicans from blue to red in the following way:

Prior to the 2000 presidential election, there was no consistent color coding used to represent the political parties on election maps. Different media outlets would use various color schemes, sometimes switching the colors between election cycles. [1][2][4]

However, during the 2000 election between George W. Bush (Republican) and Al Gore (Democrat), which dragged on for weeks due to the controversy in Florida, the major media outlets like The New York Times and USA Today settled on using red for the Republican party and blue for the Democratic party. [1][2][4][5]

As Archie Tse, the senior graphics editor at The New York Times, explained, the choice was a “more natural association” since “red begins with ‘r’ and Republican begins with ‘r’.” [2][5] Similarly, Paul Overberg of USA Today said he chose the color scheme because “everybody was already doing it that way at that point.” [2]

This color coding of red for Republicans and blue for Democrats became the standard and has persisted ever since, even though prior to 2000 the colors were used inconsistently or even reversed. [1][4] The extensive media coverage of the 2000 election controversy helped cement this new color scheme in the public consciousness. [1][4]

[1] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/when-republicans-were-blue-and-democrats-were-red-104176297/
[2] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/11/03/heres-why-republicans-red-and-democrats-blue/6144842002/
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9908792/
[4] https://theconversation.com/red-state-blue-state-how-colors-took-sides-in-politics-93541
[5] https://www.theverge.com/2012/11/6/3609534/republicans-red-democrats-blue-why-election

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