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Poll: More Americans believe popular vote should decide the president

 By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus, Kabir Khanna and Anthony Salvanto

More Americans support the popular vote over the Electoral College as the method for electing U.S. presidents, but a majority thinks the 2016 electors should cast their vote for the candidate who won the most votes in their state. Currently, Hillary Clinton is ahead in the popular vote, while Donald Trump, the president-elect, leads in electoral votes.

By 54 percent to 41 percent, more Americans favor amending the Constitution to elect the U.S. president by popular vote (most votes cast in the entire country) rather than the Electoral College. The public has held this view going back to 1987, including in 2000 after that year’s election also resulted in a difference between the popular and electoral votes.


Perhaps not surprisingly, Democrats and Republicans hold different views on how U.S. elections should be decided.  Most Democrats – whose candidate leads in the popular vote -- support switching to the popular vote, while most Republicans – whose candidate leads in electoral votes -- favor keeping the Electoral College system.


Members of the Electoral College meet next week and so-called “faithless” electors would not sit well with most Americans. Fifty-seven percent disapprove of electors voting for someone other than the candidate who won the most votes in their state (or Congressional District in the case of Maine and Nebraska).  Majorities of Republicans and independents disapprove, but a slim majority of Democrats approve of such action.


Three in four Americans are aware that Hillary Clinton is ahead in the popular vote. Majorities across party lines say she is ahead, but 27 percent of Republicans think President-elect Donald Trump is winning the popular vote.


Throughout the presidential campaign, most voters nationwide held an unfavorable view of Hillary Clinton as well as Donald Trump. Despite leading in the popular vote, opinions of Hillary Clinton remain negative and largely unchanged from before the presidential election.



This poll was conducted by telephone December 9-13, 2016 among a random sample of 1,259 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, PA.  Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.

The poll employed a random digit dial methodology. For the landline sample, a respondent was randomly selected from all adults in the household. For the cell sample, interviews were conducted with the person who answered the phone.

Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish using live interviewers. The data have been weighted to reflect U.S. Census figures on demographic variables.

The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher and is available by request. The margin of error includes the effects of standard weighting procedures which enlarge sampling error slightly.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.  

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