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A new report from Pew Research Center shows a whopping 65% of Americans prefer a popular vote rather than the electoral college to decide presidential elections.
Nearly two-thirds said they want to change the current system so the candidate who receives the most votes wins in the study published on Monday. It’s an increase from previous years.
Pew Research notes that the electoral college has “played an outsized role” in some recent U.S. elections.
American views on the electoral system are sharply divided by political party, the study shows. Roughly 82% of Democrats and Democrat-leaning Independents favor moving to a popular vote system. On the other hand, only 47% of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents share the same view.
Ultimately, a brief glance at U.S. history helps explain why liberals and conservatives diverge on the issue.
How we got the electoral college
United States’ Founding Fathers enshrined “electors” in Article II of the U.S. Constitution in 1787.
“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress..”U.S. Constitution, Article II.
There are 530 electors within the electoral college. It takes at least 270 to elect a president. The number of electors from each state is equal to that state’s Congressional delegation (House of Representative members and two Senators).
According to the National Archives, the purpose was to create a compromise between those who only wanted members of Congress to vote for president and those who wanted a popular vote for all citizens.
Compromising Black humanity for political gain
At the same time, however, state delegates reached another, more insidious compromise during the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Northern states that had abolished slavery felt it was unfair for Southern states to count enslaved Africans toward their population for representation and tax purposes.
Delegates agreed to the infamous three-fifths compromise, which determined that three out of five enslaved people would be counted toward a state’s population. It was meant to balance political power.
Yet, it resulted in giving slave-holding states outsized representation in the U.S. House of Representatives until the Civil War, according to a report published by Harvard University.
Today, critics of the popular vote say it would give too much power to large states like California, Texas and New York. Critics of the electoral college, meanwhile, say it gives smaller states unfair influence over larger states.
Support for popular vote growing
Despite the sharp divide, a growing number of Republicans want to move to a popular vote for presidential elections.
Only 47% of GOP voters say they want to move to a popular vote. However, that number stood at just 37% in 2021 and 27% in 2016, the Pew Research study found. Though it adds that Republicans who are highly politically engaged are more likely to favor keeping the electoral college than Republans who are less politically engaged.
Meanwhile, nearly 9 in 10 liberal Democrats and three-quarters of conservative and moderate Democrats favor moving to the popular vote.
Young people are also more likely than older voters to favor the popular vote.
Changing the system, however, would require a Constitutional amendment that a majority of states must ratify.
Currently, 16 states and D.C. (205 electors) have enacted the popular vote into law. It would need an additional 65 electoral votes to go into effect, according to NationalPopularVote.com.
To view the full Pew Research Center study, click here.