Polls and Elections: Support for Nationalizing Presidential Elections

By Karp, Jeffrey A.; Tolbert, Caroline J. | Presidential Studies Quarterly, December 2010 | Go to article overview

Polls and Elections: Support for Nationalizing Presidential Elections


Karp, Jeffrey A., Tolbert, Caroline J., Presidential Studies Quarterly


Despite very different historical and constitutional bases for how we nominate presidential candidates and elect presidents to office, as well as very different political processes (sequential versus simultaneous voting), both the presidential nominating process and the Electoral College are rooted in state elections, not a national election, and both create state winners and losers. States that vote early in the nomination process benefit, as do battleground or "swing" states in the general election, especially small population states. There are widespread concerns that too much attention is paid to Iowa and New Hampshire, which vote first in the presidential nomination process (Squire 1989; Winebrenner 1998), and to Ohio and Florida, which often play a pivotal role in the general election.

Today, there are repeated calls to reform both the presidential nomination process and the Electoral College. Under riding calls for reform of both processes is a desire for fairness and consistency. One solution that appears to have broad appeal is to nationalize elections by adopting a national primary and a national popular vote, circumventing the Electoral College. In this paper, we consider how the public may evaluate such proposals against competing factors that may reduce support.

We use a 2008 national panel survey to test the importance of state-based self-interest in support for reform of the Electoral College and nomination process. We expect that people will support reform of presidential elections based on the interest of their state (long-term factors) and will change their opinions about reform based on electoral outcomes (short-term factors). Our analysis shows that citizen opinions on nationalizing presidential elections through a national primary or national popular vote for president are based on strategic decisions defined by short-term electoral politics and long-term self-interest rooted in an individual's state. We find that citizens voting for winning candidates and those who reside in states that have a great deal of influence in the current system are far less supportive of reform than either partisan losers or those living in states that have less influence under the current rules. We argue that a combination of these short and long-term influences shapes support for nationalizing U.S. presidential elections, reforms that an increasing number of citizens and political elites are taking seriously.

Reform Efforts to Nationalize Presidential Elections

Support for changing election rules in the United States has been gaining momentum since the contested 2000 presidential election, which was followed by a lengthy legal battle in Florida that ultimately ended with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore. The decision resolved the dispute in Florida, which handed George W. Bush the presidency even though the Democratic candidate, Vice President AI Gore, had won some 500,000 more votes nationwide. Only on rare occasions in American history has the popular vote winner been defeated, but the controversial election created ripple effects in motivating efforts to reform American elections.

But in other ways, the events of 2000 were not new. Since the Civil War, one-third of all presidential candidates and winners of the Electoral College have been elected with a plurality rather than a majority of the national popular vote (Donovan and Bowler 2004). When one considers those voting for the losing presidential candidate and a losing third-party candidate (Perot, Nader, etc.), a majority of Americans who cast a vote for president are on the losing side about a third of the time in recent presidential elections. Some suggest that the failure to secure a majority may continue in the future with the rise of independents and dissatisfaction with the two major political parties (Blais 2008).

No other country uses an Electoral College to mediate between a national or direct/popular vote for presidential candidates and the winner.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Polls and Elections: Support for Nationalizing Presidential Elections
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.