Iowa and New Hampshire kick off the Democratic caucus and primary season in less than two months. Right after that comes all-important South Carolina, a crucial test for candidates to demonstrate strength within the black community.
A new poll conducted by FairVote has the newest snapshot of the race there -- with an important twist: Ranked choice voting.
Voters in most states—with the exception of Kansas, Hawaii, Alaska, and Wyoming—can only affirm their preference for a single candidate.
But what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if voters weren’t forced to select only one candidate, but could instead rank their choices? What if a vote for a low-polling candidate wasn’t a throwaway vote or a spoiler? What would a primary election look like then?
Now we have the answer -- and you get to test the interactive results.
FairVote, in an innovative poll conducted in conjunction YouGov, gave South Carolina likely Democratic voters the option to rank their preferences in the Democratic primary—and the results were revealing.
By every measure of breadth and depth, former Vice President Joe Biden is the front runner—with 40.33 percent of first-choice preferences and support among all demographic groups.
When a ranked choice voting primary is simulated and votes are distributed according to preference, Biden remains on top, besting Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren by a wide margin.
The results get more interesting when we dive deeper into the data. For example, Sanders has the highest overall favorability, though Biden has the highest proportion of “very favorable” opinions. Additionally, Pete Buttigieg was ranked in voters’ top three preferences of 24 percent of respondents—the same level oftop-three support held by Tom Steyer. For more insight and analysis, Vox did a wonderful job at delving into characteristics of the poll.
The best feature of the poll may be its interactive nature. Using FairVote’s innovative widget, one can select different demographics and remove certain candidates to envision several scenarios that might take place under RCV.
Curious about how Joe Biden fares against Andrew Yang? Or the level of support for the top five candidates with college educated voters? Or the preferential breakdown of the top three candidates among racial groups? Just click to eliminate candidates and to show the votes from the desired voter subset.
It’s fun, easy, and indicative of the power of ranked choice voting—as both a polling toll and a real election system—to affirm the preferences and voice of voters.
Lamentably, while most states will not be using RCV to help select a presidential nominee this cycle, four Democratic parties -- in the states of Kansas, Alaska, Hawaii, and Wyoming -- will.
It’s possible that more states will adopt RCV in future for presidential nominations, especially considering that, when voters are given the opportunity to rank, they do. In fact, in the poll, more than 92% of respondents chose to rank more than one candidate, and more than 56% of respondents said they favor RCV as opposed to only 21.3% who indicated they opposed it.