In a time of undeniably destructive partisan fracturing in the United States, there’s at least one thing that Americans have consistently agreed upon for decades. For nearly seventy years, majorities of Americans have told pollsters that the Electoral College should be nixed.

For nearly seventy years, majorities of Americans have told pollsters that the Electoral College should be nixed.
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The consensus cuts across party lines: Gallup finds “supermajority support” to get rid of it “among the young and the old, the highly and not-so-highly educated, and Republicans as well as Democrats.” In a national poll of US voters in 2013, more than six in ten Americans favored abolishing the Electoral College (63 percent overall), including  61 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of independents, and 66 percent of Democrats.

In the not-too-distant past (like, a week ago), dumping the Electoral College was an idea that Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump—and even Newt Gingrich—all endorsed. (Trump said it was disgusting. After the election he said it was genius.)

It’s a rough gauge, but of 38 available statewide polls I looked at, taken in states across the US between 2008 and 2015, there’s an average of 74 percent support for a nationwide popular vote for President, with a healthy low of 67 percent and a high of 81.

In 2000 when Democratic candidate Al Gore had won the National Popular Vote over Republican George W. Bush and the Supreme Court ruled that Florida would go to Bush, thereby sealing his election, researchers found that partisanship played an important role in shaping attitudes toward the Electoral College. Gallup found at that time that 75 percent of Democrats said they would “amend the Constitution so that the candidate who receives the most votes nationwide wins.” By contrast, 56 percent of Republicans favored keeping the Electoral College, while 41 percent favored replacing it with a popular vote system. A decade later the partisan lines had softened to overall support. In 2011, 62 percent told Gallup they’d swap the Electoral College for a National Popular Vote, including a majority of Republicans, and barely a third said they’d rather keep things as they are.

Disliking the Electoral College is one thing; conviction about what to do instead is altogether different. Talk of a Constitutional amendment may be daunting. And at least one 2013 poll indicates Americans were ambivalent when given a choice between awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the statewide popular vote winner (that’s the current system and it got 46 percent support) or dividing electoral votes based on congressional districts (41 percent support, with 13 percent unsure). No wonder; most of the time, most of us have little reason to ponder the difference. But, respondents weren’t asked about a third option that’s gaining some attention—and traction, to award a state’s electoral votes to the national popular vote winner (a strategy Washington State and California, among 10 other states nationwide have already passed laws to commit to when and if enough other states also sign on to do so thus tipping the nation to a national popular vote). In many state-level surveys, some of which I highlight below, participants show greater support for this option when given those three choices.

The Electoral College’s service to the people and the nation is in question.
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Of course, everything has changed since Tuesday, November 8th, 2016.

And, though pretty consistent over time, some of the polling on this is old enough now to be stale anyway. Maybe we throw all the old polling out the window and start over. No matter what, it’s hard to say what an election like 2016 does to attitudes. Beyond partisan differences, one analysis immediately following the suspense and strangeness of the Bush/Gore contest, indicated that those with higher levels of political sophistication were more likely to oppose Electoral College reform—or at least appeared to be more easily swayed by opposition arguments.

However Trump’s Electoral College win influences attitudes, it’s safe to say that right now, people are talking about the Electoral Collegea lot. It’s top of mind. And for many, its service to the people and the nation is in question.

I hope we see new polling in the election aftermath. But for now, here’s a snapshot, via National Popular Vote, of public attitudes about Electoral College reform in and near Cascadia.

  • For each of these surveys, voters were asked “How do you think we should elect the President: Should it be the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states, or the current Electoral College system?” or a similar question. Except for California, the surveys were conducted by Public Policy Polling, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

    Alaska

    A survey of 800 Alaska voters conducted on January 27-28, 2010 showed 70 overall support for the idea that the President of the United States should be the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states.

    • Support for a National Popular Vote was 66 percent among Republicans, 78 percent among Democrats, 70 percent among Nonpartisan voters, 82 percent among Alaska Independent Party voters, and 69 percent among others.
    • Support was 78 percent among women and 60 percent among men.
    • Support was 68 percent among 18-29 year olds, 70 percent among 30-45 year olds, 70 percent among 46-65 year olds, and 70 percent for those older than 65.

    California

    Like Washington, California has already passed legislation to commit to a National Popular Vote. A Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Assoicates poll of 800 likely voters in California on August 4-7, 2007 found 69 percent overall support for swapping the Electoral College for a National Popular Vote, with 44 percent strong support and 25 percent “somewhat” support. Only 21 percent opposed; 12 percent “strongly.” A majority (58 percent) favored a system in which the candidate who receives the most popular votes over a system where the candidate who wins the most votes in individual Congressional Districts will win the Presidency.

    Idaho

    A survey of 800 Idaho voters conducted on May 5–6, 2009 showed 77 percent overall support for the idea that the President of the United States should be the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states.

    By political affiliation, support for a National Popular Vote was 75 percent among Republicans, 84 percent among Democrats, and 75 percent among others. By gender, support was 84 percent among women and 69 percent among men. By age, support was 84 percent among 18-29 year olds, 70 percent among 30-45 year olds, 75 percent among 46-65 year olds, and 82 percent for those older than 65.

    Idaho voters were also asked a three-way question: “Do you prefer a system where the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states on a nationwide basis is elected President, or one like the one used in Nebraska and Maine where electoral voters are dispensed by Congressional district, or one in which all of the state’s electoral votes would be given to the statewide winner?”

    The results of this three-way question were that:

    • 71 percent favored a national popular vote;
    • 16 percent favored awarding its electoral votes by congressional district; and
    • 13 percent favored the existing statewide winner-take-all system (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes statewide).

    Montana

    A survey of 842 Montana voters conducted on January 4–5, 2011 showed 72 percent overall support for the idea that the President of the United States should be the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states.

    • Support was 67 percent among Republicans, 80 percent among Democrats, and 70 percent among others.
    • Support was 80 percent among women and 63 percent among men.
    • Support was 72 percent among 18-29 year olds, 67 percent among 30-45 year olds, 75 percent among 46-65 year olds, and 73 percent for those older than 65.

    Oregon

    A survey of 800 Oregon voters conducted on December 16-17, 2008 showed 76 percent overall support for a National Popular Vote for President.

    • Support was 82 percent among Democrats, 70 percent among Republicans, and 72 percent among independents.
    • Support was 67 percent among 18-29 year olds, 68 percent among 30-45 year olds, 82 percent among 46-65 year olds, and 76 percent for those older than 65.
    • Support was 81 percent among women and 71 percent among men.
    • Support was 87 percent among whites (representing 89 percent of respondents), 59 percent among African-Americans (representing 3 percent of respondents), and 80 percent among Hispanics (representing 2 percent of respondents), and 69 percent among Others (representing 6 percent of respondents).

    Washington

    A survey of 800 Washington state voters conducted on December 2-3, 2008 showed 77 percent overall support for a National Popular Vote for President.

    • Support was 77 percent among independents, 85 percent among Democrats, and 68 percent among Republicans.
    • Support was 80 percent among 18-29 year olds, 76 percent among 30-45 year olds, 76 percent among 46-65 year olds, and 78 percent for those older than 65.
    • Support was 84 percent among women and 69 percent among men.
    • Support was 78 percent among whites (representing 87 percent of respondents), 57 percent among African-Americans (representing 4 percent of respondents), 60 percent among Hispanics (representing 1 percent of respondents), and 78 percent among Others (representing 7 percent of respondents).

    Support for a National Popular Vote remained steady, at 77 percent overall, in an identical poll fielded in May 2009, after the National Popular Vote Bill was signed by Washington Governor Chris Gregoire. Percentages by subgroups were similar in both polls.

    An additional question was asked in the May 2009 poll. Respondents were asked to make a three-way choice among three alternative methods for awarding the state’s electoral votes, with the following results:

    • 73 percent favored a National Popular Vote;
    • 16 percent favored awarding its electoral votes by congressional district (as is currently done in Maine and Nebraska); and
    • 11 percent favored the statewide winner-take-all system (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes statewide).

    Wyoming

    A survey of 1,039 Wyoming voters conducted on January 4–5, 2011 showed 69 percent overall support for the idea that the President of the United States should be the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states.

    • Support was 66 percent among Republicans, 77 percent among Democrats, and 72 percent among others.
    • Support was 76 percent among women and 62 percent among men. S
    • Support was 70 percent among 18-29 year olds, 68 percent among 30-45 year olds, 70 percent among 46-65 year olds, and 70 percent for those older than 65.

    These high levels of public support for doing away with the Electoral College in favor of direct democracy are encouraging, but again, polling from several years ago—or even a week ago—should be viewed with some caution today. If there’s one thing we know for sure, the political landscape has been altered and is changing day to day. It remains to be seen whether Americans’ experience of the election and the imminent Trump presidency will trigger a newly invigorated conversation about ways of making democracy work better for the people.

    Want more? Here's how Oregon can fix the Electoral College