The Democrats’ big electoral college advantage in 2016

Nice post by Ben Highton over at the Monkey Cage looking at the structural advantage the electoral college appears to give the Democrats in 2016.  Short version, a bunch of math/statistics (all based on very defensible assumptions) suggests that in a 50-50 election, the Democratic candidate would have a greater than 83% chance of winning the electoral college.  This also means that even coming somewhat short of 50-50, a Democrat would still have a decent chance.  Here’s some on Highton’s analysis:

To make predictions for 2016, I analyzed how the popular vote margin (the Democratic minus the Republican percentage of the vote) compared to the national vote in every state from 1992 through 2012.  I examined the states individually to detect any long-term trends.  For example, while Oklahoma was already significantly more Republican than the nation in 1992, it steadily became even more Republican over time.

The key to the predictions for 2016 is taking these long-term trends into account…

As suggested above, the key to the Democratic advantage are the trends underway in some key states.  While Oklahoma has moved significantly in the Republican direction, it was already strongly Republican.  But, consider the 10 states whose 2012 presidential margin was within five points of the national margin.  In five of them (Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania) the trends are modest in size and hard to separate from random noise.  In Colorado, a more significant trend in the Democrats’ favor appears underway, but it has been uneven, which makes predictions for Colorado in 2016 more uncertain.  In the remaining four states (Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin), the trends are clearer, more substantial, and all favor the Democrats.

Or, another way to think about this is that why red states are getting more red– which of course does nothing in an electoral college context–a number of purple states are moving towards the blue part of the spectrum.

Y’all know I hate the electoral college and I still do.  But heck, if it is going to be biased I’ll take bias towards Democrats.  If a Democrat actually wins the election while a Republican takes a plurality of the vote I’d suggest the Republicans will not longer put up with it and we’d actually see an end to the electoral college.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to The Democrats’ big electoral college advantage in 2016

  1. rgb says:

    And you honestly think Democrats won’t suddenly begin embracing how great the electoral college is and it should not be scrapped….if that happens? I remember when Democrats loved the filibuster too.

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