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posted on 23 July 2016

Trump Doesn't Need To Win The Popular Vote To Be President

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We recently pointed out that if only a total of 278,000 votes for Obama had switched to Romney in 2012 that Romney would have won. If the switches had been made in just 3 states, Florida (38,000 out of 8.474 million or 0.45%), Ohio (84,000 out of 5.581 million or 1.5%) and Pennsylvania (156,000 out of 5.754 million or 2.7%), Obama would have been a 1-term president.

Romney would now be our president even though he would have lost the popular vote by more than 4.1 million.

We have worked from the 2012 elction results to create a hypothetical electoral college win for Donald Trump with an equally hypothetical popular vote win for Hillary Clinton. First, here are the final totals for the 2012 election:


Next let's make some simplifying assumptions:

  • The total vote in 2016 will be the same. (Many expect it to be higher.)

  • Third party candidates get the same number of votes in 2016. (There are arguments that 3rd parties may get more votes.)

  • The votes for 40 of the states will be the same in 2016 as in 2012.

  • For the remaining 10 states, we suggest hypothetical results, below.

The states in this hypothetical example all are going for the same party as in 2012 with the exception of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, which went to Obama, this year going to Trump. That would give Trump an electoral vote victory of 273-265.

The 10 states that are the only ones with an assumed change in the vote distributions are given in the table below. We show the 2012 votes, the hypothetical 2016 votes and the gains for either Clinton or Trump as they would occur.


*Assumed, hypothetically.

So this hypothetical vote has Clinton increasing the popular vote margin by more than 2 million compared to Obama 2012 (more than a 6 million plurality in the popular vote) but Donald Trump is inaugurated on Jan. 20 2017.

In the preceding post on presidential elections, we pointed out the futility of national opinion polls unless the popular vote difference is more than 4%. This hypothetical has a popular vote difference will above 4% (actually 4.8%). We doubt that many would guess from the polls that Trump would be the winner.

It is also true that Hillary Clinton doesn't need to win the popular vote to be president. See Clinton Doesn't Need To Win The Popular Vote To Be Elected

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