Winning the popular vote does not mean you’re popular

People are making a big deal out of the fact that Trump, like Lincoln, lost the popular vote. But in a system where people only vote for their first choice, and do not rank the candidates, it is impossible to say that the person who wins the popular vote is the most popular candidate.

Let us take an extreme example. Not the most extreme possible, but close to it. Suppose there is an election between 3 candidates, A, B, and C. Suppose 34% of votes are for candidate A, 33% for candidate B, and 33% for candidate C. Was candidate A the most popular?

Well… maybe. But suppose that that every person who voted for candidate B preferred candidate C over A, and every person who voted for candidate C preferred B over A. That would mean 66% of voters thought A was the worst candidate, even though A won the popular vote! Maybe voters who picked B and C as their first choices even thought B and C were both ‘pretty good,’ while A was ‘awful!’

Similarly, with Trump v. Hillary, Trump lost the popular vote by less than around 3 million. However, there were 3.8 million votes for Johnson, and 1.2 million votes for Stein. Plus many for other candidates. So how did those 3rd party voters feel? I wrote in Sanders. However, I would greatly prefer Trump to Hillary. Presumably, most of those who voted for Johnson would prefer Trump to Hillary. If all the Johnson voters preferred Trump to Hillary, and the Stein voters were split 50/50, that would make Trump more popular than Hillary by .4 million votes!

Unfortunately, our voting system does not tell us anything except a person’s reported ‘first choice’ for president. As such, we really cannot say whether Trump or Hillary was the preferred candidate by the majority.

Of course, as I have argued before, the federal government was never meant to give equal representation to every individual. It was meant to give representation to states, and not to weight each state by population, as is evidenced by the setup of the senate (which gives 2 senators to every state, regardless of population).

However, I repeatedly see people arguing that Clinton is the rightful president because she was more popular, ignoring the fact that:

  1. Our law says the president is based on the electoral college, and Trump won that by a landslide.
  2. Clinton may not have been more popular. She had the most people who said she was their first choice. She could easily have been the LAST choice for everyone else, which would mean Trump was far more popular than she was.

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