Showing posts with label Third Parties. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Third Parties. Show all posts

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Americans Elect and the Electoral College

This past week the Davidson College Department of Political Science was pleased to host Americans Elect Campus Director, Nick Troiano. Mr. Troiano gave a talk on the process behind the movement to add a third line on the general election ballot  -- a platform -- for an ideologically diverse presidential ticket. FHQ won't get into the particulars of that quest or even into a discussion of the general difficulty third parties have in finding even a modicum of success in presidential elections. Suffice it to say, FHQ is skeptical of just how well Americans Elect will do this fall, but we are intrigued by what we would call the experiment the cause represents. The notion of a version 2.0 for American democracy, but one rooted in major party responsiveness to and co-opting of ideas that spur any success Americans Elect might enjoy, is a pragmatic approach that bears watching. 2012 to Americans Elect is more about establishing something -- a future position on the ballot given a 5% vote share -- than it is about winning the presidential election.

I'll leave it at that.

One new fact about Americans Elect that Mr. Troiano raised -- and FHQ was unaware of -- was the role the group or its candidate would play in the context of the electoral college. Now, this assumes a lot, and I don't want to get into that, but if the Americans Elect candidate wins electoral votes, but not enough to win the presidency. Obviously, if a third party candidate is receiving electoral votes, there is an argument to be made that it reduces the likelihood that any candidate will receive a majority of the electoral votes and thus avoid the election being thrown to the House of Representatives.1

But Americans Elect has planned for such a contingency. Under a scenario where the Americans Elect candidate receives some electoral votes and no candidate has a majority, the election does not automatically default to the House. The election only goes to the House if, in December when the selected electors gather in state capitols across the country and transmit their votes, no candidate has a majority. The House is not a setting where an Americans Elect candidate is going to fare all that well, what with there being no Americans Elect infrastructure there. Now, the greater the share of electoral votes the group's candidate has, the more likely his or her electors are to play a large role. No, they won't make any difference in the House -- for obvious reasons -- but the provision in the group's rules triggered under this scenario calls for the online convention delegates who chose the nominee in the first place to reconvene. That convention would then decide which of the two major parties' candidates to throw their support behind. the electoral college vote.

That would, first of all, prevent the outcome of the election from hinging on a delegation-by-delegation vote in the House of Representatives, but would, secondly, provide the group with some influence, some leverage, in the election itself and its aftermath.

Will the presidential election play out this way? No, it probably won't. But does this add a new wrinkle to everything to add into the electoral college tie scenario that will inevitably be discussed at some point this summer when people are bored with the state of the presidential race? Yes, yes it does. File this Americans Elect scenario away with that one.

1 This assumes that the third party candidate in question is drawing some support away from both major party candidates and not just primarily from one. If the support is mainly being drawn away from just one of the major party candidates, it is likely to the benefit of the other major party candidate in the electoral vote tally.

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These things are over sooner rather than later.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

And What About the Green Party?

This past week we've looked at how both the Libertarians -- behind Bob Barr's candidacy -- and Ralph Nader would fare in the upcoming November election given the information we have at this point in the race. The obvious goal is to see if, in a close race, either would pull enough of the vote away from McCain or Obama to affect the outcome of the race. The conclusion we've drawn is that in the most competitive states there are a few instances where either third party candidate could affect the race, but that across the full list of toss up states, it isn't likely to make all that much difference.

But are we getting the true Nader effect? Often we talk about the potential for a third party candidate to affect the fortunes of one or both of the major party candidates. What we don't discuss is how third party candidates can affect each other. Nader ran as the Green Party nominee in 2000 but as an independent in 2004. In 2004, however, there was something of a redistribution of 2000 Nader voters. Some returned to the Democratic Party having been spurned by the Nader and the perception that he cost Gore the presidency, others followed Nader and some stuck with the Greens and their nominee, Daivid Cobb. [Yes, I'm sure some stayed home as well, but we'll gloss over those folks.] The Nader effect can, then, be thought of as a Nader/Green effect to some extent. So what we really have here are two questions:
1) Does the separation/combination of the two add anything to our understanding of the effect they are predicted to have?

2) Does Cynthia McKinney's presence in polls -- and later on the ballot -- augment the effect and/or detract from Nader's vote share?
Reader (...and political scientist/blogger), MSS, asked about the latter in the comments to the second Barr/Nader post from last week, and as I said in response, there just isn't enough information out there on McKinney yet to draw any firm conclusions. The handful of national polls that include her give her an average of about .67% (not exactly lighting the world on fire). And the only state polls that have included her are the four released last week by CNN in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, which give the former Georgia congresswoman between 0 and 3%. [It should also be noted that all of the McKinney polling comes from just two polling firms, CNN and Zogby Interactive. We don't, therefore, have the benefit of the view of this from several different angles.] There just isn't at this point enough evidence to state that her presence in the race is having any effect on Nader or anyone else. Part of McKinney's problem in November will be ballot access. It plagued the Green Party in 2004 without Nader as the standard bearer and that trend looks to be repeating itself in 2008. A quick glance at the vote results on Dave Leip's US Elections Atlas shows that the David Cobb was not on the ballot (...or simply written in) in 23 states in 2004. You can't have an effect if you aren't on the ballot. Ballot Access News (and click on "View State-by-State Chart" for more information) confirms as much for 2008 as well. McKinney will be on the ballot in 27 states in November as of September 1. She is in court or petitioning for access in 6 other states. Whether she's on the ballot in those six states or not, there is a sizable enough number of states where not being on the ballot will have an effect on how much influence she could have in the race.

Now, I'd like to report that I ran the same sort of model I ran on the other third parties -- and I did -- but the lack of data really screwed up the resulting model. For starters, the relationship between the prediction and the 2004 Green Party vote share was negative; the more support in 2004, the less McKinney would get in the fall election. And that makes sense, right? But the lack of polling data for McKinney during this cycle is simply too sparse at this point. That may change, but at this point getting an accurate prediction just wasn't going to happen. [And yes, that same charge could be levied against the models run for the other third parties. As I argued last week though, the goal was to develop a rank ordering of where each is most likely to have an effect. But I digress.]

What we can do is address the first question posed above: predict a Nader/Green effect for November.
[Click to Enlarge]

If you glance back at the Nader scatterplot from the original post, you can see that the basic ordering of the toss up states is not fundamentally different when the Green data is added into the mix. All that we're really doing is raising the bar a bit. Instead of a series of predictions for Nader just under two points, you have a series of predictions for the Nader/Green vote that ranges from three and a quarter points to three and a half points. Those three states at the upper right of the plot are likely to be states where the Palin selection will play well -- especially in Alaska. That is certainly a point that is up for debate since Palin is "not a hit with undecideds" and is back on In-Trade, but the trading is over whether she'll be dumped as the VP choice. That aside, McCain still has the advantage in that trio of states. Is the Green/Nader presence hurting there? Well, Nader maybe, but McKinney isn't not on the ballot in two and is short over 6000+ signatures in North Dakota. So, perhaps it isn't a factor.

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Barr/Nader Effect Revisited

Earlier this week, we looked at a prediction of how well both Bob Barr and Ralph Nader would do in November based on the Libertarian/Nader vote in 2004 and the state of polling on them both on the state and national levels thus far in 2008. A simple model, but one we can enhance. FHQ commenter and Election-Projection proprietor, Allen, spoke about the 2000 election in response to that post (...posing an altogether different question, but certainly one to look at.). And that got me thinking: What would adding in the data from 2000 do to the regression? It would do a couple of things. First, it provides a more consistent measure -- across two elections -- of the libertarian vote. This is advantageous because it eliminates the possibility that the events unique to 2004 are driving the changes we see. However, the drawback to adding in that data in is that it likely inflates to some extent the vote share Nader would be predicted to receive in November. As I said earlier in the week, though, the goal right now -- especially with the limited amount of polling we have for both third party candidates during this cycle -- is to get an idea about the relative effect each will have across the 14 states that FHQ has as toss ups at the moment in our electoral college projections.

What happens is that we don't see any monumental shake up, but there are some subtle shifts.
[Click to Enlarge]

In looking back at the Libertarian scatterplot from the previous post, there's not much difference in the predicted vote share that Bob Barr would get in November here. [Though there is a bit more dispersion here the focus should be on how high or low the point is.] There are three main groupings of states: Alaska and Indiana in the upper right, a group nine states in the middle, and Florida, Michigan and New Hampshire at the bottom left. To reiterate a point from earlier, the three closest states on the most recent Electoral College Spectrum -- Nevada, Ohio and Virginia -- are close enough that two to three points won by Barr could make a difference. However, if those states are that close, what we see here is likely to have been an exaggeration come November. Swing states across the 2000 and 2004 data typically yielded smaller vote shares to third parties than the less competitive states. Voters are willing to vote in protest if the candidate from their party has already seemingly won or lost the state.

One more thing we can add to this is how Ron Paul did this year in the Republican primaries. These are voters -- his supporters -- who are organized and perhaps inclined to vote for the Libertarian candidate. Ultimately, what this is measuring is the intensity of Paul support across states. A variable controlling for caucus states has been included to deal with contests where Paul did better on the whole than in primary states.
[Click to Enlarge]

Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Pennsylvania all see modest jumps while the remaining states hold relatively steady when compared with the plot above. That's three caucus states (Montana held a caucus on the Republican side) and one primary state; two McCain toss ups and two Obama toss ups. Again, the same caveats as above apply in the case of a competitive state -- which all of these are. However, Nevada is in a bit of a gray area here. Yes, it did have a caucus, but Nevada was a state where the Paul forces were very well organized. They completely disrupted the state convention in the Silver state and left Nevada without a delegation to next week's convention until just hours ago -- when the state Republican Party named the delegation. In a state that is as close as Nevada, this matters. Whether Barr's numbers are inflated in the state is beside the point. If those Paul supporters turn out and if -- this is a big if -- the opt for Barr, then McCain may have issues turning the tide there.

That's the story on the Libertarian front, but what about the impact Nader is predicted to have later in the fall? As I said at the outset in explaining the inclusion of the 2000 data, Nader would be expected to gain as a result of the inclusion of an election where he outperformed the 2004 numbers we used before.
[Click to Enlarge]

This distribution is also largely similar to the original plot with just the 2004 vote data. Ohio is the only state that really makes a move. Even with that 2000 data, Nader's predicted vote share for the upcoming election is still modest, only just more than 2 points at the most.

In the end though, the message is largely the same as what we saw earlier in the week among these toss up states with regard to the Barr/Nader effect. There is the potential for influence, but the main question is whether close states follow form, not giving third party candidates as large a share of the vote as in other states.

Somewhat tangentially, there's another issue I'd like to raise in this context. Earlier this week when FiveThirtyEight ran the latest CNN state polls, they used the version with the two party vote question as opposed to the four way race data. That has since been changed, but it started something of a discussion over there, and that is a discussion that is relevant here as well. It has implications for our electoral college projections. As I've discussed in this post and in others on the subject, it is likely that the third party percentages in polls are inflated in relation to where vote choices will ultimately be. That being said, is it beneficial to proceed with the four way polls or to go for the two way race version? In one version the third party aspect is supressed and that has an impact on the accuracy of that poll. But the accuracy of the four way polls are questionable as well since those numbers may be skewed here during the late summer weeks. What are people's thoughts on this? I have, to this point, included that four way race data when available.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An August Look at the Barr/Nader Effect in 2008

When Zogby released their interactive poll results for the ten states they label battlegrounds over the weekend I considered once again looking at where Bob Barr was doing well. After the 34 state polling release in early July, we saw that Barr was faring quite well -- perhaps too well -- in some states that would make John McCain's job that much more difficult. Instead of doing that again, though, I thought I'd see what kind of data I could gather that would help us gain a better idea of how both Barr and Nader would potentially affect the upcoming general election.

With that in mind, I brought together a few different elements:
1) State polls charting a three or four way race.

2) National polls with either a three or four candidates included.

3) The share of the 2004 general election vote that both Nader and the Libertarian Party nominee, Michael Badnarik, received.

While there is a limited amount of data for the current cycle at both the national and state levels, the picture of a multiple candidate race can be augmented by the 2004 data. That provides a better sense of who does well and where. Since late May when Barr was nominated to represent the Libertarian Party, there have been 30 polls in 15 different states that include Barr and/or Nader in them. And during that same period there have been 18 national polls with either three or four candidates included. Again, this is a limited amount of information, but if we combine that data in a regression with the 2004 election results for Nader and the Libertarian Party, we get much closer to being able to predict if not how well both will do in November, then at least an idea of which states fall where in the pecking order.

Let's look at each separately.

[Click to Enlarge]

After the regression, we can plot the predicted vote share for, in this instance, Bob Barr against the vote share the Libertarian Party received in the 2004 presidential election. For the sake of clarity, I've only included the points for the 14 toss up states in our most recent electoral college projection, but rest assured the model includes all fifty states. On the lower left are toss up states where Barr does not take up too much of the the vote share on the right side of the ideological spectrum. That's good news for McCain in states like New Hampshire and Florida because the conventional wisdom holds that a Libertarian nominee would pull more from the Republican than Democratic nominee.

On the other side of the graphic, though, there are a couple of states where there may be cause for concern for the McCain camp. Both Alaska and Indiana give over three and a quarter points to Barr. That may not sound like much, but when two regularly solid Republican states require some amount of defense, the Republican nominee would be better served if he didn't have to fend off attacks on two fronts. And tucked away there in the middle of the pack are our three closest states, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia. As tight as each of these are no amount of support for Barr would be welcomed by the Arizona senator, and two or more points may be enough to swing any of the three toward Obama and the Democrats.

The situation is a bit different in the Nader context.

[Click to Enlarge]

For starters, the same group who supported Nader in 2004 seem to be behind him again in 2008. Not the same exact people, but at least at this state a similar number of people. That can be contrasted with the Libertarian example above. The party of smaller and less interventionist government appears to have a much firmer footing in 2008 than it did just four years ago. Some or all of that may have to do with disaffected Ron Paul supporters who will hold their own gathering simultaneous to the GOP convention next week. It is a group that is certainly more energized during this cycle. But back to Nader. There is such a small range of vote share values across these toss up states. Nader is close to getting nearly two percent from each of these fourteen states (and for that matter all states since this is the same range in which the lean and strong states would fall as well.). And then there is the question that has been asked since 2000: Who are these Nader voters? Are they people who are only voting for Nader and thus not taking votes away from Barack Obama? Or does Nader represent a refuge for Democrats who won't pull the lever for the Illinois senator anyway? The former seems more plausible than the latter. Nader's share of the vote shrunk from 2000 to 2004 as Democrats, burned by the 2000 experience took a more pragmatic approach into the voting booth with them in 2004. Nader didn't really hurt Kerry; he wasn't even on the ballot in Ohio. And 2008, at least at this early juncture appears to be shaping up similarly to 4 years ago rather than 8 years ago.

I shouldn't short the Nader graphic, though. It is interesting that Indiana is among the strongest states predicted for Barr and is on the opposite end in the Nader example. If Nader were to pull votes away from Obama, the Hoosier state is a place where the Illinois senator would get the best of both worlds: a minimal Nader effect, but a comparatively large Barr effect.

Now, both accounts above come with some caveats. First, polls this time of year, both national and state, tend to overstate the position of third party candidates in the race. As we get closer to November, we'll start to see some movement toward one or the other of the two major party candidates. Diminished or not though, we do get from this a sense of which states are most likely to be affected by these third party candidacies. We can begin, for example, to look on this as a companion to the electoral college spectrum.

Another issue is that this model is far from inclusive. We are dealing with a limited number of variables here, so we aren't dealing with the full world of factors. [Misspecification alert!] However, this does get us moving in the proper direction at least; especially in that it bring more information to the table than simply the minimal amount of three and four way polling that is available.

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