Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Popular vote tallies in an electoral college system are bullshit

Yesterday, before we found out that all of our polling data were worthless piles of infectious biological waste, I posted this about misleading claims regarding the electoral college.  Here's another one.  Yes, the electoral college is bullshit, and obviously, one party is more likely to be unhappy with it than the other right now.


The popular vote tally isn't just legally irrelevant.  It is also analytically meaningless.  You cannot assume that the popular vote would have turned out the same way if the election had been held under a nationwide popular vote rule.  The social science term is the "counterfactual."  What if the world had been otherwise?  If the Constitution specified a nationwide popular vote, the candidates would have behaved differently, and likely so would voters.  Turnout is often higher in competitive states, and the candidates make no effort to boost turnout among supporters in solid states like California or Texas.  That wouldn't be the case if the election were held under a nationwide popular vote.  Many things would be different under the counterfactual.

Who would have come out on top if the campaign had occurred under that rule?  We have no way to know when the nationwide popular vote was so close.  That doesn't mean the electoral college doesn't distort things.  But, you cannot assume that Clinton would have won if the election had been held under a nationwide popular vote because the campaign would have played out differently.

1 comment:

  1. Totally true.

    But I know EXACTLY how it turned out under the current rules.