This is part 2 of a series of 3 posts by Jameson Quinn, based on a pre-election poll run by electology.org and GfK research. Part 1 introduced the poll and analysis methodology, and discussed the lessons of the poll regarding the two-way Hillary/Trump race. This part talks about what the poll tells us about support for other candidates or potential candidates. Part 3 will talk about the implications for voting systems.
I want to clarify especially that I’m speaking for myself in these posts. Specifically, Electology (aka the Center for Election Science or CES) is a nonpartisan organization; our board members and supporters include active and committed members of all of the top 4 US parties (Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, and Green). I honestly believe that our proposals for voting reform would bring the kind of positive-sum changes that could be win/win for all of these groups and more. We value our nonpartisan position, and any statement I make here that’s partisan is NOT the position of the organization.
The focus of electology’s part of this poll was on alternative voting methods. To that end, voters were asked about how they would have voted under 3 such methods (approval voting, 0-5 score voting, and IRV), as well as under plurality (aka First Past the Post). They were also asked for their honest opinions of the candidates on a 0-5 scale. Interviewees were randomly given either a short list of 4 candidates — Clinton, Trump, Johnson, and Stein — or a longer list of 9 possible candidates — Clinton, Sanders, Trump, Cruz, Johnson, Stein, McMullin, Bloomberg, and Castle.
In this installment, I’m focusing on the question of how people felt about all of these candidates, not on the effects of voting system per se. To that end, I’ll look at the results from the long list of candidates, under approval and score voting. In the next installment, I’ll dive much further into the differences between the long and short lists, the various voting methods, and what that shows. (Teaser: plurality still sucks and needs reforming, but the other lessons are not entirely what I’d hoped for.)
So, here’s the flashy, yet controversial, picture. (I know that there are a lot of caveats and disclaimers with this picture, and I’ll try to cover them below. And I’ll still probably fail to give all the caveats I should, so you can yell at me in comments if you want.)
What are you looking at? I made demographic models, as detailed in the previous post, for the score results of all 9 candidates mentioned above. Each model used ordered logistic regression; I’ll explain what that is below. Then I applied the models to each state’s demographics, as given by the Current Population Survey, and voting propensity by ethnicity, gender, and state from 2012. I then corrected the Clinton and Trump results by the factor by which my plurality model from last post got the state wrong; and the other candidates’ results by those factors for Clinton and Trump, each raised to the power of the correlation between the major-party candidate’s simulated plurality total and the minor candidate’s simulated score voting total. (The sum-absolute-value of those correlations was between 0.5 and 1 for both Cruz and Sanders; and none of the other candidates came close to winning anywhere).
Or, in plain English, I used the survey results to model how each state’s population would have responded to the score voting question, and then rescaled the results to agree better with the actual voting outcome.
Warning: Poll results do not guarantee contrafactual performance.
If you’re wondering about the strange empty area in the Midwest: that’s because nobody actually lives there. That is, the states above are scaled proportionally to their electoral votes. (If I’d scaled them to their population, Wyoming would be microscopic.) This excellent map format is from Daily Kos Elections.
Of course, the obvious disclaimers apply. I’m aware that this involves unfair comparisons. Clinton and Trump went through bruising general election campaigns and both got large amounts of primarily-negative media coverage; Johnson and Stein were mostly not treated seriously; and during the general election campaign, the other hypothetical “candidates” like Sanders basically only got attention from their supporters. I’m happy to discuss why or how that happened in the comment section, but for now: yes, I am fully aware that if Sanders had been the nominee or one of many nominees, this would not have been the map.
Furthermore, if the real-world election were being run using score voting, voters would almost certainly vote more strategically than they do on a poll. (I’ll talk more about that in the next installment).
Specifically regarding McMullin: my model would probably underestimate the support of regional candidates like him, so it’s possible that a more perceptive model would give states like Utah or Nevada to him.
And finally: even if you ignore all the above disclaimers, this map above is a visualization of what “might” happen if we kept the electoral college but used score voting in each state. That’s a crazy hybrid of election methods that nobody actually advocates. We need to get rid of the electoral college. (I’ll talk more about this point too in the following installment.)
Still. Those disclaimers notwithstanding, I find this map very interesting. The electoral totals would be: Sanders 280, Trump 174, Clinton 73, Cruz 11. Sanders wins this crazy hybrid election outright.