Thursday, February 18, 2016

SC Republican Primary With Ranked Choice Voting

As part of FairVote's ongoing series based on Public Policy Poll (PPP) polls, they have done a simulation based on the latest South Carolina poll from PPP of a ranked choice voting contest in which the first round results are compared to what happens when the trailing candidates are eliminated and the field is reduced to three, and when the last-place finisher is eliminated and the field is reduced to two.

Interact and watch what happens:

This simulation is almost certainly what would happen with ranked choice voting in which voters rank the candidates in order of choice, and ballot-counting follows this same algorithm. Although Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio trail Trump by 35% to 18% in first choices, the contest dramatically changes once Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov. John Kasich, and Dr. Ben Carson are eliminated. Rubio moves into second, well ahead of Cruz. Once Cruz is eliminated after the second round, his voters overwhelmingly back Rubio over Trump. In the final round with only Trump and Rubio, it’s a statistical tie.


- The first round margin in the PPP poll is similar to the margins in the New Hampshire primary. Despite his landslide win in a fractured field, their analysis of PPP polling there indicated Trump might well have lost in a one-on-one contest. Keep in mind that he barely edged out Hillary Clinton in popular votes, and was far behind the votes won by Bernie Sanders, a fair comparison given that unaffiliated voters in New Hampshire can choose which contest to vote in. Notably, if New Hampshire’s results governed who went to the November ballot and it used the “Top Two”: primary results, Trump only narrowly would have squeaked onto the November ballot despite more New Hampshire voters overall choosing to vote in the Republican contest than the Democratic one.

- To underscore how Trump’s tactics for the moment are lowering his ceiling of support, the PPP data shows that Cruz voters give 32% of their second choices to Rubio, and only 11% to Trump. In contrast, before Trump started attacking Cruz, the November 2015 PPP poll in South Carolina showed that Trump and Rubio were essentially tied as the second choice of Cruz voters, with Trump securing 19% and Rubio 22%.

- Some voting method reformers support approval voting, which would elect the candidate with the highest rate of approval. In this system, a voter approving more than one candidate will have their vote count for more than one candidate at the same time, and a candidate can lose despite being the first choice of more than half of voters. The PPP data reveals that Ben Carson right now might win an approval voting contest going way, as his approval rate of 68% is far higher than that of Rubio (58%), Kasich (52%), Trump (50%), Cruz (42%) and Bush (41%).

Such results underscore FairVote’s concerns regarding the viability of an approval voting system in meaningfully contested elections.

CLICK HERE to read the 82 page (PDF) Public Policy Poll report.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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