The real electoral college bias

Love this analysis from Nate Cohn looking at the various ways the electoral college is or is not biased and how that helped Trump.  His conclusion: not regionalism, not small-state bias, but a battleground state bias:

O.K., so it’s not California and it’s not small-state bias. What is it?

It’s the Electoral College’s most straightforward bias: The battleground states count the most.

Mrs. Clinton did well in noncompetitive states and “wasted” popular votes that didn’t earn her any more electoral votes, while Mr. Trump did just well enough in competitive states to pick up their electoral votes…

Mr. Trump did very well in the battleground states. Depending on how the battlegrounds are defined, the vote there either broke for Mr. Trump or was virtually tied — a huge improvement over Mitt Romney’s showing in 2012.

Mr. Trump won a lopsided electoral vote tally from those states by narrowly winning four of the five states decided by around one point or less: Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania (Mrs. Clinton edged him out in New Hampshire). Outside of those five states, the electoral vote was basically tied, with Mr. Trump edging out Mrs. Clinton, 231 to 228 (and leading by the margin of small-state bias)…

The regional anomaly was the Midwest, and it just so happens that in a winner-take-all system Mr. Trump’s strength in the Midwestern battleground states yielded a lot of Electoral College votes.

There’s a real demographic reason for it: Most of the traditional battleground states are much whiter, less educated and particularly less Hispanic than the rest of the country.

But the demographics alone don’t quite do justice to Mr. Trump’s victory in the Electoral College. In the end, he won the battleground states by just a one-point margin — but claimed three-fourths of their Electoral College votes.

He won four of the five closest states, winning 75 of 79 votes at stake.

There has never been a close election in the United States in which one candidate has claimed such a resounding electoral vote margin out of the closest states.

For lack of a better word: Mr. Trump had some very good luck.  [emphasis mine]

Damn.  On such things do the fate of the country rest.  Unlucky us.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

2 Responses to The real electoral college bias

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    Some call it luck and others call it foreign (Putin) and domestic (Comey/FBI) meddling.

    • Steve Greene says:

      Oh, yeah, that’s a given. I’m pretty sure I’m already quite on the record on that point. It’s just that even after those two factors, the closeness of the vote in those states and how it broke is luck.

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