Electoral College’s Republican Bias Smaller Than When Trump Won 2016 Election: Study

The Electoral College has historically favored the Republican party, but this year the bias towards the GOP may be smaller than when President Donald Trump won the 2016 election, according to a new study.



A stock image shows buttons reading "Vote 2020" ahead of the presidential election on November 3. Researchers have simulated the part Electoral College votes may play in the election.


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A stock image shows buttons reading “Vote 2020” ahead of the presidential election on November 3. Researchers have simulated the part Electoral College votes may play in the election.

The research comes with just over a week to go until the election day. Polls indicate a win for Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Researchers at Columbia University used the results of the nine U.S. presidential elections from 1984 to 2016 to create a simulation to predict how the Electoral College vote may factor into the results of the upcoming 2020 election.

They noted that the system has favored the Republican party for a number of reasons, but found that the bias towards the Republican Party in 2020 will likely be “about half as severe” than it was in 2016.

“The Electoral College distortion in 2020 will probably tilt in the Republicans’ favor as it did in 2016 but to a lesser degree of magnitude, more in line with other recent elections,” the authors wrote in their paper published in the journal PNAS.

According to the simulation, there could be a range of outcomes this year. The team wrote that their model suggests “Trump would have a remote chance of winning even if his support is as slim as 48 percent of the popular vote.”

However, it is also possible that if the popular vote is tied, or Trump has a slight lead, “Biden would have a remote chance of winning, overturning the narrative that the Electoral College favors Republicans,” they said.

Co-author Karl Sigman, professor of industrial engineering and operations research at Columbia Engineering, said in a statement: “We found that Biden probably does not need as big a popular vote margin as Hillary Clinton did.

“If the vote were 51-49, as it was with Hillary Clinton, that would be the tipping point, and the Electoral College could go either way rather than a certain Trump victory.”

Co-author Robert Erikson, professor of political science at Columbia University, said in a statement that the 2016 election emerged as a “statistical outlier.”

He said: “The Democratic versus Republican divisions in the prior election have mattered, but only up to a point. That is why the same national popular vote as 2016 could have a different Electoral College outcome.”

The Electoral College system gives each state plus Washington, D.C. a number of votes in a presidential election up to a national combined total of 538. Presidential candidates compete for at least 270 Electoral College votes in order to win the White House.

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