Posted by Katie P. Kelly on October 26, 2011
Polls are a significant medium through which politicians gain insight into the preferences of their constituents and the American public. For years now, polls have been conducted on whether to replace the current Electoral College system with a national popular vote for president. As FairVote detailed in a post a few years ago, national and statewide results consistently show favor for a popular vote – usually with majority support from backers of both major parties and from independents.
A recent poll by Gallup verifies this once again: 62% of Americans now favor direct election of the president and only 35% are in favor of keeping the Electoral College. It is likely that at least some of this 35% do not agree with the current rules governing the Electoral College; rather, they support states having the power to decide how to allocate electors.
Gallup has been asking this same question in different ways over the past several decades. A popular vote has always received majority support. As recently as 1980, Gallup also found no real partisan split on preference. Gallup links the more recent and differing opinions among Democrats and Republicans in 2001 and 2005 to the contentious 2000 presidential election, which left the country fiercely divided along party lines.
Over the past decade, opinions of adopting a popular vote have fluctuated, for instance, within political parties. In 2005, only a majority of Democrats and Independents were supportive. Yet, more than 10 years later, the majority of Democrats, independents, and Republicans now favor getting rid of the Electoral College.
Staying within the margin of error, Democrat support has remained about the same with 71% in the new poll. Independents continue to support a popular vote in the majority with 61%, and Republican support has risen to a majority in the last poll with 53%. We suspect this number will keep rising as we move away from 2000 considering that there was no partisan division about the Electoral College a generation ago.
Gallup even reports that this majority remains true throughout various age groups with lowest support among the 18 to 34 year olds at 58% -- still a landslide.
These latest poll results confirm that there is a majority preference among Americans for a national popular vote and that this support crosses party lines. Polls commissioned by National Popular Vote (NPV) show that support is even higher for the NPV plan for president. This difference is likely due to the fact that it establishes the desired policy of a popular vote for president without changing the Constitution.
The National Popular Vote plan upholds the values of democracy and gives every citizen a relevant voice and vote in elections. With the latest poll data, it continues to be clear that the American people realize this and that their barrier to equality in presidential elections is found in the current system of the Electoral College. As George Edwards, Texas A&M professor and author of the excellent, Why the Electoral College is Bad for America (in its second edition this year) commented in response to the poll results,
[The Electoral College] It’s a violation of the most fundamental principles of democracy, meaning equality in voting. Under the Electoral College, every citizen vote does not count the same. As a result, the candidate who gets fewer votes can win the election. I can't see how that's a good idea under democracy.
Politicians can no longer afford to be out of touch with the American people. We must put aside partisan calculations about who can better game the current system. It’s time to go with the people and support a national popular vote for president – making every vote equal and every vote count.
**Graphs from Gallup Poll Results