"The electors shall meet in their respective states": Bias and the US Presidential Electoral College, 1960-2012

Charles Pattie*, Ron Johnston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

American Presidential elections are indirect, reflecting popular support for the candidates through the institution of the Electoral College to choose the President. In common with other plurality-based electoral systems, the College tends to exaggerate the apparent mandate received by the winner of the popular vote but, on occasion, can deliver victory to the second-placed candidate. Despite a sizeable literature on its operation and vagaries, however, relatively little attention has been paid to the question of systematic bias in the College: does one party receive a consistent advantage over the other from the College's operation? The paper examines the evidence for such a bias in each Presidential election since 1960. Although biases have occurred and in some cases were substantial, neither major party is a consistent beneficiary; the prime source of bias is to be found in the relative effectiveness of parties' own vote-winning strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-45
Number of pages11
JournalPolitical Geography
Volume40
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2014

Keywords

  • Bias
  • Electoral College
  • Electoral geography
  • Presidential elections

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