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banner Friday, 7 January, 2000, 17:49 GMT
Michigan

Michigan politics used to split down class lines, but now voting habits are harder to predict.

Key facts
Population: 9,594,300 (ranked 8 among states)
Governor: John Engler (R)
Electoral College votes: 18
In the 1980s the state enthusiastically backed Republican Ronald Reagan and many blue-collar workers switched parties, becoming known as "Reagan Democrats". Bill Clinton had to work hard in 1992 to win these voters back.

By 1996 the state voted Democrat by a comfortable margin. Mr Clinton did particularly well in cities with strong working-class populations, where there has been a tradition of support since the motor industry was at its height.

1998 Congress
House of Representatives: 10 Democrats, 6 Republicans
Senate: 1 Democrat, 1 Republican
Michigan is the home of the motor car and has long been associated with mass production industries. It was the car that transformed a largely agricultural state into a booming industrial one within the first 30 years of the 20th century.

The economy had already experienced rapid growth in the lumber and copper industries in the 19th century, but it was the arrival of Henry Ford, followed by General Motors and Chrysler, that transformed the state's fortunes. By 1930 Detroit's population was 2.2m and it became a magnet to workers from neighbouring states looking for work.

Voting record
1996: Clinton 52%, Dole 39%
1992: Clinton 44%, Bush 36%, Perot 19%
1988: Bush 54%, Dukakis 46%
As well as generating wealth and opportunity, Michigan's industrial base spawned some of the fiercest labour disputes in US history and coloured the state's politics until the 1960s. At the end of the 1930s there were many strikes, most famously at the General Motors plant at Flint in 1937.

The car industry has never fully recovered from the disastrous effects of the 1973 oil crisis, but Michigan's economy has survived well. It is less regulated and on a smaller scale than before - a healthy and diverse economic base that is slowly bringing relief to blighted areas like Detroit.

More than 50% of Michigan's population still live in the south-east corner of the state.

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