No Popular Vote? No Problem: How Trump Could Seize Victory
US President Donald Trump still has a chance of winning the presidency by winning electoral college votes but losing the popular vote. This is backed by demographic and statistical analysis, and the latest figures on the state of the US economy which could endear him to white voters in the key states.
In 2000 the then US President George W Bush won the presidency while losing the popular vote to his close rival Albert Arnold Gore by over half a million votes. The same scenario played again in 2016 when Donald Trump lost the popular vote by almost three million votes against his main rival Hillary Clinton, but still won the presidency.
Pundits are now predicting that there is another likelihood of Trump making his way to the White House, by winning the electoral but losing the popular vote by as many as five million votes. So far he seems to be doing well in the key states that propelled him to the presidency, despite the impeachment proceedings and low approval ratings, according to surveys by the New York Times, and Siena College.
In North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Florida, he is behind Joe Biden by two points, even with Bernie Sanders and ahead of Elizabeth Warren by two points.
The pattern of how the highly educated and the lowly educated Americans in these states vote will be crucial to every candidate. In 2016 Trump won the six states college by two points because of a strong backing from non-college educated voters who present a significant voting block. The polls by the New York Times shows that, at the moment Trump seems to be doing well among this group of less-educated voters.
The division of American votes based on the electorate’s level of education dates back to 1970 when the Republicans began recruiting lowly educated whites who were isolated by the civil rights movement in the South according to The Economist. Before the period this segment had formed the support base of the Democrats representing fifty per cent of all white voters.
The biggest shift of these voters to the Republican side took place in 2016 when Donald Trump caused a stir in American politics. According to analysis by Pew Research Centre, while voters without a college degree supported Hillary Clinton by 21%, those without a degree gave Donald Trump a seven-point lead over the Democrats
The reasons for this shift is explained by Herbert Kitschelt and Philipp Rehm, who are both political scientists. They argue that low Income-less educated whites moved to the Republican party because of their strong support of the redistributionist measures from which they benefit. “This group tend to support progressive economic policies and tend to endorse authoritarian policies on the noneconomic dimension.” They explained.
Trump was more popular among them because of his firm stand on issues such as Medicare and Social Security. The group is mainly made up of “low skill and intermediate routine blue-collar manufacturing or clerical-administrative jobs.”
The possibility of Trump returning to the White House by winning the college is further explained through statistical analysis by Michael Geruso and Dean Spears, both of the University of Texas. Inversions, a case in which a candidate loses the popular vote but loses the election has occurred in four presidential elections in America.
In what could be good news to Trump, the analysts say that based on probabilities there is a 77% chance that if an inversion occurs in the near future, then it is likely to be popular vote for Democrats and Republican electoral college win. They further add that, “In the past 30 years, this has favoured Republicans: conditional on an inversion occurring, the ex-ante probability that it will be won by a Republican ranges from 69% to 93%.”
In their study, they argue that the smaller the margin of votes between candidates the more an inversion is likely to occur. For instance in an elections yielding a popular vote margin with within 1% (1.3m votes), 40% are likely to be inversions. In an election decided by a 2% (2.6m) vote margin, the probability of inversion is 32%. In a race decided by a vote margin of less than 1%, the probability is 45%.
“The high probability of inversion at narrow vote margin is an across history of property of the Electoral College System,” read their paper.
“The 2016 election ended in an inversion because that election was close and close elections show a relatively high probability of ending in an inversion,” Geruso told the Guardian. “Don’t be tempted into thinking that the reason that 2020 might be an inversion is because Donald Trump is running in that race. Inversion is going to keep happening in close races for as long as we have the electoral college.”
According to their study some of the features that contribute to inversion are the winner takes it all awarding of elector ballots by most states, the inclusion of two senator-derived ballots that are not in proportion to population, the rounding errors inherent in dividing the US population across just a few hundred indivisible electors , and the substantial demographic differences between residents at last census and voters on election day.
Apart from the demographical and statistical analysis, the improving state of the economy is likely to improve Trump’s chances of returning to the White House. In September this year, US GDP rose to 1. 9% exceeding the predicted 1.6% which had been predicted by economists. The good performance was due to continued consumer spending and the growth in government expenditures. “Personal expenditures a gauge of spending by American households, rose at a 2.9% annualised rate while government spending grew at a 2% rate, ” reported CNBC.
The unemployment rate is also at its lowest point since 1969. A report by the Bureau of Labour Statistics released last month has indicated robust employment growth in September. According to the White House, a household survey conducted showed that “unemployment rate fell to 3.5% marking the 19th consecutive month at or below 4% unemployment”. At the same time, the unemployment rate for people without a high school dropped to 4.8% the lowest since 1992. “With a 50 year low for the unemployment rate and consistent job gains, the September employment data make it clear that the American labour market remains historically strong,” said a statement from the White House.
The state of the economy, and low employment rate are likely to earn Trump support among whites in the Key states, thus enabling him to win the electoral college votes.