Americans Have Historically Favored Changing Way Presidents are Elected

Historical polling data show majority favored abolishing Electoral College system more than 50 years ago

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Although the method by which the nation elects its president -- the electoral college versus popular vote -- is now of great importance given the events of the past week, a review of polling history indicates that there have been virtually no questions asking the public their opinion on the issue over the past decade.

Historically, however, the issue was a frequent topic of investigation in the years between World War II and the 1980s. In almost every instance, a majority of Americans during this time period favored -- often by strong margins -- changing the presidential election system to a popular vote system.

Gallup first asked Americans about their opinion on the Electoral College system in 1944, and found almost two thirds favored a shift to a popular vote system. After that point and up through the 1980 election, there were more than 15 Gallup poll questions that found half or more of the public supporting a change in the system, usually by margins of 60% or higher.

One of the more recent questions about the system was asked 12 years ago, in 1988, when a survey sponsored by ABC and the Washington Post found that 77% of Americans said they would rather see the presidency decided by the popular vote.

What follows are representative Gallup poll questions addressing the Electoral College issue asked though the years.

It has been suggested that the electoral vote system be discontinued and Presidents of the U.S. (United States) be elected by total popular vote alone. Do you favor or oppose this proposal?

 

 

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

       

June 22-27, 1944

65%

23

13



Today, the presidential candidate who gets the most popular votes in a state takes all the electoral votes of that state. Do you think this should or should not be changed so that each of the candidates would receive the same proportion of electoral votes that he gets in the popular vote? This would mean, for example, that if a candidate gets two-thirds of the popular vote in a state, he would then get two-thirds of the electoral votes of that state.

 

 

Should

Should not

No opinion

       

August 13-18, 1948

63%

16

20



Today the presidential candidate who gets the most popular votes in a state takes all the electoral votes for that state. Do you think this should be changed so that a candidate who gets, say, a third of the popular votes of a state would get a third of the electoral votes of that state rather than none as at present?

 

 

Should

Should not

No opinion

       

August 3-8, 1951

57%

21

22



Today, the presidential candidate who gets the most popular votes in a state takes all the electoral votes of that state. Do you think this should or should not be changed so that each of the candidates would receive the same proportion of electoral votes that he gets in the popular vote? This would mean, for example, that if a candidate gets two-thirds of the popular vote in a state, he would then get two-thirds of the electoral votes of that state.

 

 

Get all electoral votes

Get proportion of votes

No opinion

       

June 4-9, 1965

28%

57

14

       

March 2-7, 1960

28%

50

22



Would you approve or disapprove of an amendment to the Constitution which would do away with the electoral college and base the election of a President on the total vote cast throughout the nation?

 

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

       

November 7-10, 1980

67%

19

15

       

January 14-17, 1977

73%

15

12



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