December 19, 2016 at 6:00 am ET
Plurality Wants Popular Vote Over Electoral College
As the Electoral College gathers to cast their votes for president Monday, Republicans and Democrats are sharply divided on whether the institution should determine who wins the White House.
A new Morning Consult/POLITICO survey shows that a plurality of voters, 45 percent, said the Constitution should be amended to shelve the Electoral College in favor of the popular vote, compared with 40 percent who said the system should remain as is.
Partisan leanings were the top factor in how registered voters viewed the process. Americans who identify with the Democratic Party were most likely to back a constitutional amendment, with almost 7 in 10 Democrats saying the popular vote should determine who takes the White House. Meanwhile, most Republicans (62 percent) said the Electoral College, which Trump won 306 to 232, should remain in place. Almost half of independents (47 percent) were in favor of replacing the Electoral College with the popular vote, compared with 32 percent who disagreed.
The results of the most recent election may not be the only reason Democrats are in favor of ditching the Electoral College. The party has won the popular vote in six of the seven past presidential elections, but ended up losing the Electoral College, and thus the White House, in 2000 and 2016. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton currently leads President-elect Donald Trump by roughly 2.6 million votes nationally.
There were also divisions based on where respondents live. More than half of voters who described themselves as urban (53 percent) backed dumping the Electoral College, while 45 percent of rural voters wanted to keep it. In suburban areas, voters were closely split within the margin of error, 43 percent to 45 percent. Additionally, voters in the Northeast (51 percent) and West (48 percent), were more likely to back using the popular vote when compared with voters in the South and Midwest. Forty-two percent of those voters backed an amendment to use the popular vote over the Electoral College.
Voters were more likely to back changes to the current system if they were not told that it would require revisions to the Constitution. In that case, almost half (48 percent) said the Electoral College should be replaced by the popular vote, while just 36 percent backed keeping the Electoral College.
Regardless of how voters view the Electoral College or the popular vote, a plurality agrees that the 538 electors who participate in the process should be bound to vote for the candidate that won their state. Forty-six percent of respondents said electors should be bound to vote for the winner of their state, regardless of their personal opinion, while roughly one-third (34 percent) said voters should not be bound if they have significant concerns about the candidate that won.
Whether or not electors should vote with their state also splits Democrats and Republicans. Sixty-four percent of Republicans said electors should be bound, while 50 percent of Democrats said electors should not be bound. While some states require their electors to vote for the candidate who won their state, it is not required under federal law. And while there has been a higher-than-normal level of focus on the prospect of electors going rogue on Monday, it is exceedingly rare. According to the Federal Register, more than 99 percent of electors have voted as they pledged.
As the debate over the Electoral College raged on over the past few weeks, it appears voters have taken notice. Almost 3 in 4 (73 percent) of respondents said they’d heard a lot or some about the Electoral College.