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Americans Have Long Questioned Electoral College

Americans Have Long Questioned Electoral College

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A new Gallup post-election poll finds close to two in three Americans, 61%, in favor of abolishing the Electoral College system for electing presidents set up by the founding fathers, and replacing it with a direct popular vote. However, while the issue is currently at the center of political controversy swirling around the presidential election, public support for the change is nothing new. Similar majorities have backed this idea in seven surveys dating back to 1966. The greatest level of support, 81%, was recorded after the 1968 election when Richard Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey in another extremely close election.

While little about the outcome of this year's presidential election is very clear, one of the more likely scenarios, at least initially, was that Republican candidate George W. Bush would lose the popular vote but win the presidency. Perhaps as a result, Republicans currently express more support for the Electoral College system than they did historically. Today, 51% of Republicans favor maintaining the current system while only 44% say they would favor amending the Constitution so the candidate who receives the most total votes nationwide wins the election. By contrast, when last asked in 1980, many more Republicans, 62%, favored shifting to a popular vote system. Similarly, Democrats now indicate more support for the popular vote system than in the past, with 73% favoring it today compared to 66% in 1980.

 

% Who Favor Basing Presidential Election on Popular Vote

 

Republicans

Independents

Democrats

 

%

%

%

2000 Nov 11-12

44

62

73

1980 Nov 7-10

62

73

66

1967 Jan 26-31

63

67

53

The amount of education one has also plays a big role in shaping opinion on the Electoral College. People with higher levels of education are less likely to favor changing the way the president is elected.

Thinking for a moment about the way in which the president is elected in this country, which would you prefer -- [ROTATED: to amend the Constitution so the candidate who receives the most total votes nationwide wins the election, (or) to keep the current system, in which the candidate who wins the most votes in the Electoral College wins the election]?

 

 


Total

Post-
grad

College
grad

Some
college

High school
or less

           

Amend the constitution

61%

48

52

63

65

Keep the current system

35%

46

44

34

30



Strong Support for Uniform Election Procedures
The chaos surrounding the Florida election results has highlighted the vast differences in election laws both among states and within states. Under current law, each state has its own set of election laws and is responsible for overseeing its electoral process. A state's ability to design ballots and devolve electoral responsibilities to counties has partly contributed to the Florida controversy. In this case, Palm Beach County had a ballot many voters found confusing, which has sparked repeated calls for recounts and even a new election in that county.

According to a Gallup Poll conducted on Nov. 11-12, 67% of Americans say they would favor federal laws that established uniform ballots and voting procedures across states, while 29% say they think these decisions ought to be left as they are, under state jurisdiction. Younger people are slightly more likely to support uniform election procedures -- 73% of those between the ages of 18 and 29 favor such legislation compared with 66% of those over the age of 50. Although there are still differences by level of education, they are less pronounced than those found in the responses to the Electoral College question. Well-educated Americans are less likely to support uniform election procedures than are those with less education. Liberals and Democrats are also more likely than Conservatives and Republicans to support such legislation, although a majority of people in each category say they favor standardizing the system.

Which comes closer to your point of view -- [ROTATED: the federal government should pass laws that would establish the same ballots and voting procedures in all states for all presidential elections, (or) decisions on ballot and voting procedures should be left to state and local officials, as is currently the case]?

 

EDUCATION

ELECTORAL COLLEGE PREFERENCE

 

Total

Post- grad

College grad

High school or less

Keep Electoral College

Change to popular vote

Federal government should pass laws establishing uniformity in elections

67%

53

70

68

51

77

Decisions on ballot and voting procedures should be left to state and local officials

29%

44

29

27

46

19

 

IDEOLOGY

PARTY IDENTIFICATION

 

Conservatives

Moderates

Liberals

Republicans

Democrats

Federal government should pass laws establishing uniformity in elections

61%

67

81

56

78

Decisions on ballot and voting procedures should be left to state and local officials

37%

30

14

42

18

Although the questions about the Electoral College and standardizing election law are somewhat related, supporters of one type of reform do not necessarily support the other type. Those who want to keep the Electoral College split about evenly over whether to standardize election procedures or not (51% in favor and 46% opposed), while those who want to change to the popular vote show overwhelming support for standardizing election procedures, 77% to 19%.

Survey Methods

The most recent survey results reported here are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,014 adults, 18 years and older, conducted Nov. 11-12, 2000. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Would you approve or disapprove of an amendment to the Constitution that would do away with the Electoral College and base the election of a president on the total vote cast throughout the nation?

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

 

%

%

%

1980 Nov 7-10

67

19

14

1977 Jan 14-17

73

15

12

1968 Nov 9-14

81

12

7

1968 Sep 1-6

76

13

11

1967 Oct 6-11

65

22

13

1967 Jan 26-31

58

22

20

1966 Jan 21-26

63

20

17

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