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Poll: A Majority of Americans Want to Abolish the Electoral College

Support for switching to a popular vote model is the highest it’s been since 2000, a Pew Research poll found.

People hold signs reading "count every vote" during a worker's rally in Copley Square in Boston just before Joe Biden was declared the President-Elect in Boston on November 7, 2020.

More than 6 in 10 Americans say that the Electoral College should be abolished and replaced with a popular vote model for selecting the president and vice president, a new poll shows.

In a Pew Research Center survey that was published last week, 63 percent of respondents backed instituting a popular vote model over the current Electoral College system — the highest rate the organization has seen in support of instituting a popular vote system since at least the year 2000. Only 35 percent of the poll’s respondents preferred keeping the Electoral College in place.

The poll was conducted from June 27 to July 4.

The results of the survey showed a noticeable partisan divide on the question of the Electoral College. While 80 percent of Democratic-leaning respondents backed transitioning to a popular vote model, just 42 percent of Republicans expressed the same attitude.

Still, that 42 percent is demonstrative of Republican-leaning voters changing their views over time — in 2016, when former President Donald Trump won the election through the Electoral College without winning the popular vote, just 27 percent of Republicans said they supported switching to a popular vote system.

Younger voters also tended to support abolishing the Electoral College. Seventy percent of Americans between the ages of 18-29 said that the president should be chosen through a popular vote model, while just 56 percent of those over the age of 65 agreed.

Since the Constitution’s adoption in the late 18th century, five presidents have won the Electoral College without winning the popular vote. The phenomenon has happened twice since the year 2000, most recently with Trump’s election win in 2016.

Support for changing the system saw a noticeable jump from earlier this year. In a Pew Research Center poll published in January, 55 percent of Americans supported switching to a popular vote method, while 43 percent opposed the measure.

The eight-point increase in support for abolishing the Electoral College may be the result of the work of the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol building.

The January 6 committee has exposed to the public how Trump and his campaign team attempted to game the Electoral College by using fake electors, sent in by Republican allies of the former president, in order to create confusion throughout the certification process. Their goal was for then-Vice President Mike Pence to take action that would ultimately install Trump as president for a second term.

Although the plan failed, it has led some to question whether the Electoral College can be manipulated in the future. Several members of the January 6 committee have reportedly expressed support for the panel to call for abolishing the Electoral College once their work is completed. But others, including committee vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), are opposed to the idea.

Proposals to abolish the Electoral College in favor of a popular vote model have been around for decades.

In 2012, for example, when early presidential election returns suggested that former President Barack Obama was going to win re-election against GOP nominee Mitt Romney without attaining the popular vote, Trump tweeted that “the electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.” (Obama would ultimately win the popular vote as well as the Electoral College in that year’s contest.)

Trump initially said that he supported abolishing the Electoral College — and in an interview shortly after he won in 2016, Trump said that his victory wouldn’t alter his views.

“I’m not going to change my mind just because I won,” he said. “But I would rather see it where you went with simple votes. You know, you get 100 million votes and somebody else gets 90 million votes and you win.”

Of course, Trump bragged about his Electoral College victory in several statements thereafter.

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