At a briefing on Capitol Hill yesterday, the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation presented new public opinion data that shows American voters are eager for three key electoral reforms that would give voters a greater voice at the ballot box and more fair representation in government, while tempering the partisan rancor that currently dominates our politics.
The survey was conducted online with a random sample of 2,482 registered voters who were asked to provide recommendations on major changes to the way Americans elect members of Congress, including ranked-choice voting, multi-member districts, and congressional redistricting with nonpartisan commissions, which are the three pillars included within the Fair Representation Act (HR 3057).
All three proposals were seen as at least tolerable by more than two-thirds of respondents, including super-majorities of Republicans and Democrats. Not surprisingly, given the outcry over partisan gerrymandering in recent months and two cases currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court (Gill v. Whitford and Benisek v. Lamone), redrawing congressional district lines with nonpartisan citizen commissions is supported by the largest number of voters – 66 percent – including 53 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents.
A majority of American voters favor ranked choice voting, the election method that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference, including 46 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independents.
Multi-winner districts are also favored by a majority (55 percent), including 44 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents. Such districts combined with ranked choice voting, would facilitate candidates getting elected by constituencies normally shut out in the current single-winner district configuration (i.e. more Republicans elected in states like California and Massachusetts, more Democrats elected in states like Oklahoma and Tennessee, and more women and people of color across the country).
“It’s encouraging to see that voters are ready to embrace these proposals even as many are still learning about them,” said FairVote Executive Director Rob Richie. “Americans want more fair representation, a stronger democracy, and a more responsive government that works together for the common good. These three proposals – all components of the Fair Representation Act – are essential for us to get there.”
Several members of Congress offered their remarks at the briefing, including Rep. Don Beyer, Rep. Jim Cooper and Rep. Jamie Raskin. They were joined by Richie and FairVote New Mexico Director Maria Perez at the event, which was convened for Hill staffers, members of the press and reform activists.
Survey respondents were provided with a background briefing on the issues as well as strongly-worded arguments for and against each proposal. Before asking respondents for a final recommendation on the question, they were asked to assess each proposal as acceptable, tolerable and unacceptable.
Here, 70 percent of voters responded with a positive evaluation of ranked choice voting (52 percent acceptable, 18 percent tolerable and 29 percent unacceptable). Sixty-two percent of Republicans have a favorable view (44 percent acceptable, 18 percent tolerable and 37 percent unacceptable). For Democrats, 78 percent hold a favorable view (59 percent acceptable, 19 percent tolerable, 21 percent unacceptable), while 70 percent of independents have a favorable view (52 percent acceptable, 18 percent tolerable, 30 percent unacceptable).
A very strong majority of voters have a positive assessment of nonpartisan congressional redistricting by citizen commissions. Nationally, eight-in-ten (80 percent) find the proposal at least tolerable, with 62 percent calling it acceptable (18 percent tolerable, 19 percent unacceptable). Seventy percent of Republicans hold a positive view, including 53 percent who find the proposal acceptable (with 17 percent tolerable, 29 percent unacceptable). Eight-in-ten independents hold a favorable assessment, including 61 percent acceptable, 19 percent tolerable and 20 percent unacceptable.
Multi-member districts received an equally strong assessment nationally (50 percent acceptable, 21 percent tolerable, 27 percent unacceptable. More than six-in-ten Republicans (65 percent) view it positively (43 percent acceptable, 22 percent tolerable, 34 percent unacceptable). Seventy-eight percent of Democrats hold a favorable view (56 percent acceptable, 22 percent tolerable, 20 percent unacceptable). Nearly seven-in-ten independents (68 percent) have a favorable view of the proposal (48 percent acceptable, 20 percent tolerable, 28 percent unacceptable).
The national probability-based sample of 2,482 registered voters was provided by Nielsen Scarborough. It was fielded Sept. 7 – Oct. 3, 2017. Margin of error is +/- 2.0 percent.