Perhaps the strongest argument for setting aside the electoral vote in 2016 is the vast disparity between it and the popular vote. Nearly 3 million more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump; or roughly 2% of the voting population. It is by far the largest popular vote win that didn’t amount to a presidential win in American history. The previous record, set in 2000 was only a 6th as large. But a new poll finds that a narrow majority of Republicans aren’t even aware of these numbers.
As part of its usual post election poll, Pew Research asked respondents a number of questions to gauge how aware they were of the election. One of those questions was who they believed had won the majority of the popular vote. It’s not unusual for 10 or 20 percent of respondents to get these sorts of questions wrong. But on the Republican side a shocking 52% said they believed Donald Trump had also won the popular vote.
It’s not hard to see why such a large percentage of voters have misconceptions about the elections outcome. Trump openly called the electoral system rigged in the days leading up to the election and refused to agree to accept the results. And since the election he has claimed that Clinton’s popular vote lead was only made possible by the millions of undocumented immigrants who illegally voted for her:
In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 27, 2016
But Trump, privately at least, seems to know that he won in spite of a huge loss in the popular vote. He’s called the electoral college unfair on a number of occasions after the 2012 election. Just to be clear: Obama won the popular vote by nearly 5 million in 2012, so even back then Trump was trying to put forward some sort of bizarre conspiracy theory.
The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
Now that he won based entirely on the Electoral College though he’s changed his tune:
The Electoral College is actually genius in that it brings all states, including the smaller ones, into play. Campaigning is much different!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2016
More than anything, the problems America faces are the results of an under-educated, ill-informed public. In this same poll, respondents without a high school education were significantly more likely to answer questions incorrectly. Until Americans learn how to sort through information for themselves or how to empower and then trust media agencies our electorate will always be susceptible to demagogues with wild conspiracy theories.
Featured Image via Mark Wallheiser/Getty