If the popular vote between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden is nearly a tie, Trump has an 88 percent chance of re-election, researchers of the Electoral College predict in a recent study.
The Electoral College system has a bias which is set to favor the Republican presidential candidate in 2020 again, but the discrepancy between the popular vote and electoral votes will not be as wide as the “statistical outlier” election of 2016. Columbia University researchers delved into the electoral “inversion” which allows candidates like Al Gore and Hillary Clinton to win the most votes across the country, but still lose the Electoral College which decides U.S. elections. Their data found Trump only has a 12 percent chance of losing to Biden if the popular vote is a virtual tie or very close.
Even if the popular vote is 52 to 48 percent in favor of Biden, Trump still has a similarly overwhelming chance of winning. But should Trump fall below 48 percent of the popular vote, his chances of winning become very remote.
“The popular vote ties and very close elections are likely to favor Trump, with a certain degree of built-in uncertainty,” the researchers wrote in their study of Electoral College data published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal last month.
If Biden achieves the same majority popular vote percentage as Clinton did in 2016, 51.10 percent, he only has a 46.14 percent chance of winning the Electoral College in 2020.
But the study authors cautioned that the use of 2012 data was not reflected in the 2016, particularly in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, where Trump enjoyed narrow, popular vote victories. They found that over the past 10 elections between 1980 and 2016, there was “no obvious systematic bias tilting the Electoral College” toward either party. The 2004, 2008 and 2012 elections actually showed the electoral vote system tilted in favor of the Democratic candidate for president.
“For all of the disruption in its wake, the Electoral College’s Republican bias so evident in 2016 could recede in status to a historical anomaly,” the researchers added.
Using each state’s vote divisions between Democrats and Republicans from the 2012 contest of Barack Obama versus Mitt Romney, the researchers say “Donald Trump got lucky with the variation of the simulated shocks” to the vote four years later. Shifts within the Democratic Party were more than average in the country’s two largest states, California and Texas, but that didn’t change the Electoral College winners. On the other hand, Republicans shifts in the states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin allowed Trump to “narrowly win there.”
The Electoral College is composed of 538 electors based on 435 representatives and 100 senators from all 50 states, plus three electors out of Washington, D.C. Candidates need at least 270 electoral votes to win, or more than half. Should the Electoral College votes end in a tie, it would be sent to the House for decision.
“The observed 2016 outcome and the probable 2020 pro-Republican bias in the Electoral College is a by-product of the distribution of the two-party vote division in the states. If this short-term tilt of the playing field leads Democrats to despair, they could be reassured by the possibility that the tilt might be transient.”
Newsweek reached out to both the Biden and Trump campaigns for reaction Tuesday evening.