A new Gallup survey shows that support for the Electoral College system is stronger today than it has been in many years. Following a controversial election that gave Hillary Clinton the popular vote while giving Donald Trump the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, many on the left have championed a constitutional amendment to abolish the system. But if liberals are more eager than ever to get rid of the Electoral College, Republicans have renewed faith in the system.
According to the poll, 47% of Americans want to keep the Electoral College while 49% want to get rid of it and have the popular vote decide future presidential elections. That’s almost right down the middle, which is a big change. In previous surveys, a clear majority of the public expressed a desire to abolish the Electoral College:
Such sentiment has clearly prevailed when Gallup asked this question twice in 2000 — after George W. Bush won the Electoral College while Al Gore won the popular vote — in 2004 and in 2011. In each instance, support for a constitutional amendment hovered around 60%.
From 1967 through 1980, Gallup asked a slightly different question that also found majority support for an amendment to base the winner on the popular vote. Support for an amendment peaked at 80% in 1968, after Richard Nixon almost lost the popular vote while winning the Electoral College.
The turnaround in public opinion comes largely from Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Of these Americans, 54% supported deciding the presidency by popular vote in 2011. As of today, only 19% want to do away with the Electoral College. You probably don’t need a Harvard political science professor to explain what’s going on.
At the same time, you can’t just say, “Oh, well, of course Republicans like the Electoral College after they used it to beat Hillary!” It’s not that simple. Voters have been exposed to some very good arguments for and against the system over the last two weeks. Republicans know that all of Hillary’s popular vote advantage comes from one state – California. A state that grows more dissimilar to the rest of the United States with every passing year. Our country was designed as a union of states, not just one massive, singular democracy.
The Electoral College gives the people of “flyover country” a relevance they would begin to lose if we abolished it. That doesn’t mean one way is right and the other way is wrong, but it does mean there is more to think about here than who won or lost the last election.