Brams and Kilgour (Public Choice 170:99–113, 2017) begin their recent essay on the Electoral College (EC) by pointing out the obvious, but nonetheless regularly neglected fact that noncompetitive states may have a decisive impact on EC outcomes and shape the electoral strategies of the candidates in the competitive states, especially if there is asymmetry in the partisan balances in the non-competitive states. Their contribution is to offer combinatorics insights into the implications of such asymmetries in the form of three new indicators: Winningness, Vulnerability, and Fragility. They then explore the magnitude and effects of these three measures for the presidential elections of 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012. The major contribution of this note is to extend their analyses of these measures to an additional 34 elections: every election in the modern two-party post-Civil War era from 1868 to 2016. We find the Winningness measure to predict very well over the entire set of 38 presidential elections. Inspired by their work, we also offer a new and simpler metric for partisan asymmetries in noncompetitive states and show how it can predict the expected closeness of EC outcomes as well or better than the more complex combinatorics measures they propose.
Electoral College Non-competitive states Voting power Presidential elections
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
The authors would like to thank Daron Shaw and Scott Althaus for their data and helpful comments. They would also like to express gratitude to the journal editors William F. Shughart II and Keith Dougherty, along with the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. Work on this project was supported by the Jack W. Peltason Center of the Study of Democracy at the University of California, Irvine. The first named author is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of California, Irvine. The second named author is a Professor of Political Science at UCI and the Jack W. Peltason Chair of Democracy Studies. Replication material can be found at https://github.com/jcervas/Non-Competitive-Advantage.
Downs, A. (1957). An economic theory of democracy. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
Duffy, J., & Matros, A. (2015). Stochastic asymmetric Blotto games: Some new results. Economics Letters,134, 4–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Duffy, J., & Tavits, M. (2008). Beliefs and voting decisions: A test of the pivotal voter model. American Journal of Political Science,52(3), 603–618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Edwards, G. C., III. (2004). Why the Electoral College is bad for America. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Gelman, A., & King, G. (1993). Why are American presidential election campaign polls so variable when votes are so predictable? British Journal of Political Science,23(1), 409–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Geys, B. (2006). Explaining voter turnout: A review of aggregate-level research. Electoral Studies,25(4), 637–663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gimpel, J. G., Kaufmann, K. M., & Pearson-Merkowitz, S. (2007). Battleground states versus blackout states: The behavioral implications of modern presidential campaigns. The Journal of Politics,69(3), 786–797.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grofman, B., Brunell, T., & Campagna, J. (1997). Distinguishing between the effects of swing ratio and bias on outcomes in the U.S. Electoral College, 1900–1992. Electoral Studies,16(4), 471–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grofman, B., & Feld, S. (2005). Thinking about the political impacts of the Electoral College. Public Choice,123, 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hirsch, S. (2008). Awarding presidential electors by congressional district: Wrong for California, wrong for the nation. Michigan Law Review First Impressions,106, 95–99.Google Scholar
Johnston, R., Rossiter, D., & Pattie, C. (2004). Disproportionality and bias in U.S. presidential elections: How geography helped Bush defeat Gore but couldn’t help Kerry beat Bush. Political Geography,24(8), 952–968.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ladewig, J. W., & Jasinski, M. P. (2008). On the causes and consequences of and remedies for interstate malapportionment of the U.S. House of Representatives. Perspectives on Politics,6(1), 89–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lipsitz, K. (2009). The consequences of battleground and ‘‘spectator’’ state residency for political participation. Political Behavior,31(2), 187–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lipsitz, K., & Teigen, J. M. (2010). Orphan counties and the effect of irrelevant information on turnout in statewide races. Political Communication,27(2), 178–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Miller, N. R. (2012). Why the Electoral College is good for political science (and public choice). Public Choice,150, 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Owen, G. (1975). Multilinear extensions and the banzhaf value. Naval Research Logistics, 22(4), 741–750.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pattie, J., & Johnston, R. J. (2014). The electors shall meet in their respective states: Bias and the U.S. Presidential Electoral College 1960–2012. Political Geography,40, 35–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ross, T. (2012). Enlightened democracy: The case for the Electoral College (2nd ed.). Torrance: World Ahead Publishing.Google Scholar
Shaw, D. R. (1999a). The effect of TV ads and candidate appearances on statewide presidential votes, 1988–1996. American Political Science Review,93(2), 345–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shaw, D. R. (1999b). The methods behind the madness: Presidential Electoral College strategies, 1988–1996. The Journal of Politics,61(4), 893–913.CrossRefGoogle Scholar