- 61% prefer amending Constitution to use popular vote to elect president
- 89% of Democrats, 23% of Republicans favor popular vote
- Democrats' preference for popular vote highest in two decades
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Heading into the 2020 presidential election, three in five Americans favor amending the U.S. Constitution to replace the Electoral College with a popular vote system, marking a six-percentage point uptick since April 2019. This preference for electing the president based on who receives the most votes nationwide is driven by 89% of Democrats and 68% of independents. Far fewer Republicans, 23%, share this view, as 77% of them support keeping the current system in which the candidate with the most votes in the Electoral College wins the election.
|Amend the Constitution||Keep current system|
|Total U.S. adults||61||38|
|GALLUP, Aug. 31-Sep. 13, 2020|
Gallup has periodically measured public attitudes about the process of electing the president using this question since shortly after the 2000 election when George W. Bush won the electoral vote, and Al Gore won the popular vote. The latest findings, from an Aug. 31- Sept. 13 Gallup poll, are similar to readings after the 2000 election and in 2004 and 2011.
Of the seven times this question was asked over the past two decades, support for amending the Constitution to abolish the Electoral College only fell below the majority level once -- in November 2016 after Donald Trump won the electoral vote and Hillary Clinton the popular vote. At that point, 49% of Americans wanted the current system to be replaced, and 47% wanted it to remain in place. By 2019, support for using the national vote totals over the Electoral College had risen to 55%.
Line graph. Americans' preference for the way to elect a president in the U.S. since 2000. Currently, 61% would prefer to amend the Constitution so the candidate who receives the most total votes nationwide wins, and 38% would prefer to keep the current system.
Between 1967 and 1980, Gallup tracked the public's appetite for changing the electoral system with a similarly worded question and found majorities of 58% to 80% approved of amending the Constitution to "do away with the Electoral College and base the election of a president on the total vote cast throughout the nation."
Democrats and Republicans Consistently Differ on Electoral Preference
Republicans have been consistently less supportive of eliminating the Electoral College throughout the past 20 years compared with Democrats and independents. Yet, the divergence between Republicans and Democrats has been much greater since 2016. After Trump defeated Clinton, Democrats were more than four times as likely as Republicans to favor using the national popular vote to elect U.S. presidents. This was due both to Democrats becoming more supportive and Republicans less supportive of the Electoral College system in the wake of Trump's victory.
While Republicans have become slightly more supportive of this concept since then, Democrats are still far more likely to favor it.
Line graph. Partisans' preferences for the way to elect a president in the U.S. since 2000. Currently, 89% of Democrats, 68% of independents and 23% of Republicans would prefer to amend the Constitution, so the candidate who receives the most total votes nationwide wins. Democrats and independents have consistently been more supportive of abolishing the Electoral College than Republicans.
In contrast, data from the similar question about doing "away with the Electoral College" between 1967 and 1980 found majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents alike favored the concept.
Presidential candidates have only won the electoral vote and lost the popular vote four times in U.S. history, and two of these occurrences have been in the last five presidential elections. In both 2000 and 2016, the Republican candidates won the Electoral College while the Democratic candidates won the popular vote. This is likely the main reason behind Democrats' strong support -- and Republicans' strong opposition -- to changing the current system to use the popular vote to elect the U.S. president. That is, Americans' opinions are increasingly driven by what would benefit their party.
Amending the Constitution to abolish the Electoral College system in the U.S. requires support from two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-quarters of the 50 states. Given the current polarization among partisans on the issue, there is little chance that such an amendment will happen anytime soon. An alternate proposal that would not require a constitutional amendment -- The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact -- is an agreement between states to award all of its electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the overall popular vote. It has been adopted by 15 states and the District of Columbia, but it, too, is sharply politicized.
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