Sophisticated and myopic? Citizen preferences for Electoral College reform
- 1.4k Downloads
Different institutions can produce more (or less) preferred outcomes, in terms of citizens’ preferences. Consequently, citizen preferences over institutions may “inherit”—to use William Riker’s term—the features of preferences over outcomes. But the level of information and understanding required for this effect to be observable seems quite high. In this paper, we investigate whether Riker’s intuition about citizens acting on institutional preferences is borne out by an original empirical dataset collected for this purpose. These data, a survey commissioned specifically for this project, were collected as part of a larger nationally representative sample conducted right before the 2004 election. The results show that support for a reform to split a state’s Electoral College votes proportionally is explained by (1) which candidate one supports, (2) which candidate one thinks is likely to win the election under the existing system of apportionment, (3) preferences for abolishing the Electoral College in favor of the popular vote winner, and (4) statistical interactions between these variables. In baldly political terms, Kerry voters tend to support splitting their state’s Electoral College votes if they felt George W. Bush was likely to win in that state. But Kerry voters who expect Kerry to win their state favor winner-take-all Electoral College rules for their state. In both cases, mutatis mutandis, the reverse is true for Bush voters.
KeywordsWilliam Riker Strategic voting Electoral college Institutions Majority rule
Our thanks to Nikolai Hoberg, William Keech, Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard, Sarah Necker, and Florenz Plassmann at the Public Choice World Congress in March, 2012 in Miami, Florida. We are extremely grateful to Peter Feaver and Christopher Gelpi of Duke University for letting us add questions about Electoral College reform to the end of a survey they conducted with Jason Reifler in October 2004. Ryan Yonk provided invaluable research assistance. Two anonymous reviewers made important contributions to the paper with their many helpful suggestions and corrections. The editor of Public Choice, William Shughart, made an unusually large contribution to clarifying and refining the arguments presented here. Finally, the financial assistance of the National Science Foundation is acknowledged in gratitude. Notwithstanding all of the above, the errors and shortcomings that remain are entirely the fault of the authors.
- Aldrich, J. H. (2005). The election of 1800: the consequences of the first change in party control. In K. R. Bowling & D. R. Kennon (Eds.), Establishing congress: the removal to Washington, D.C., and the election of 1800 (pp. 23–38). Athens: Ohio University Press. Google Scholar
- Bennett, E. L. (1951). Reform of presidential elections: a study of the Lodge Amendment. American Bar Association Journal, 37, 89–92, continued 162–164. Google Scholar
- Dennis, J. M., Chatt, C., Li, R., Motta-Stanko, A., & Pulliam, P. (2005). Data collection mode effects controlling for sample origins in a panel survey: telephone versus internet. Unpublished manuscript. Available at http://multimediamentor.com/ganp/docs/Research-0105.pdf.
- Dion, D. (1997). Turning the legislative thumbscrew: minority rights and procedural change in legislative politics. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Google Scholar
- Duverger, M. (1954). Political parties. New York: Wiley. Google Scholar
- Jefferson, T. (1904). Letter to James Monroe, Philadelphia, January 12, 1800. In The works of Thomas Jefferson (Vol. 9, Federal ed.). New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=757&chapter=87215&layout=html&Itemid=27. Accessed on-line December 4, 2012. Google Scholar
- Long, J. S., & Freese, J. (2006). Regressional models for categorical and dependent variables using stata (2nd ed.). College Station: The State Press. Google Scholar
- Merolla, J. (2003). Too close for comfort: elite cues and strategic voting in multicandidate elections. Ph.D. thesis, Duke University. Google Scholar
- Moore, J. L. (Ed.) (1985). Congressional quarterly’s guide to US elections (2nd ed.). Washington: Congressional Quarterly. Google Scholar
- Riker, W. H. (1982). Liberalism against populism: a confrontation between the theory of democracy and the theory of social choice. San Francisco: Freeman. Google Scholar
- Wilmerding, L. (1958). The Electoral College. New York: Beacon Press. Google Scholar