Most Americans, Especially Evangelicals, Want Electoral College Abolished

Americans are strongly opposed to the Electoral College as the method of choosing the president and wish to see it replaced with a popular vote, according to a poll by Barna Group. Of the different faith groups, evangelicals are the most opposed to the Electoral College.

Almost two out of three voters surveyed, 64 percent, thought that presidents should be chosen by popular vote, not the Electoral College, in the Nov. 6-10 poll. Among those, almost half, 49 percent, said they strongly preferred that the president be selected by popular vote rather than elector votes.

Of the different faith segments that Barna examined, evangelicals were the most opposed to the Electoral College. Seventy-three percent preferred the popular vote. Barna defines evangelical more narrowly than most other surveys.

Evangelicals were also the most likely to believe that "most people do not know enough about the major issues to be well-informed voters." Ninety percent of evangelicals agreed with that statement compared to 82 percent of all voters in the sample.

Barna's findings are consistent with other surveys showing strong preference for doing away with the Electoral College. Last year, a Gallup poll found 62 percent of Americans preferring the popular vote. That poll also found support for the popular vote stronger among Democrats (71 percent) than Republicans (53 percent).

The Electoral College is comprised of electors from each state equal to the number of members of Congress representing that state. For all but two states, the electors are assigned based upon which candidate wins the popular vote in that state. Because of this, it is possible to win the popular vote without winning the election. Additionally, the Electoral College incentivizes candidates to focus their attention on the "swing" states, or the states that are closely contested.

The Electoral College was designed as a compromise between two other options that were considered at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The Founders decided against having Congress choose the president because they wanted the president to exercise independence from Congress. On the other hand, the Founders did not want a popular vote because they feared that the masses could be too easily manipulated by a charismatic tyrant. The Electoral College was designed to be a middle ground between those two options.

George C. Edwards, distinguished professor of political science at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, is a critic of the Electoral College and author of Why the Electoral College is Bad for America (2011).

In an Oct., 2011, interview with The Christian Post, Edwards said the Electoral College is "a violation of the most fundamental principles of democracy, meaning equality in voting. Under the Electoral College, every citizen vote does not count the same. As a result, the candidate who gets fewer votes can win the election. I can't see how that's a good idea under democracy."

Barna's survey of 1,008 adults had 771 registered voters. The margin of error for voters is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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