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Polls, Polls, and More Polls: Ranked Choice Voting Reveals Why Donald Trump Still Dominates

Author: Fair Vote
Created: 26 February, 2016
Updated: 16 October, 2022
3 min read
The College of William and Mary and FairVote partnered with YouGov to conduct an online national survey of a representative sample of 1,000 Republican and independent voters on January 21-25 and February 4-8. Their innovative methodology incorporated presidential candidate rankings, issue analyses, and voter opinion on electoral reforms.

Read the full report.

The findings highlight the fact that when allowed to fully express their preferences among all Republican presidential candidates, a majority of voters supported Ted Cruz over Donald Trump, despite Trump garnering a plurality of support when voters were only asked for their first choice. In addition, polling shows that there is an appetite for reform in the presidential nomination process among Republican and independent voters. Young millennial voters (under 30) had the highest intensity of support for electoral reforms to accommodate greater choice in elections, and increase electoral competition. Read our press release highlighting key findings

Interactive Data Tool: Try out RCV and Impact of Candidate Withdrawals

FairVote has teamed with Civinomics to create a ranked choice voting app that allows users to create ranked choice voting contests. It also allows you to interact with all the ranked choice data from our new YouGov poll. Go to http://www.GOP2016poll.com to see the full simulation and learn more about the relationships among backers of different candidates.

Here's how to get the most from the RCV app:

1. See the ranked choice voting tally: The results page displays the final two candidates and indicates the candidate who wins a majority of votes in the final round through a ranked choice voting. In this case, Ted Cruz is the winner, which means voters ranked Cruz ahead of Donald Trump on a majority of ballots in which at least one of them was ranked. To see the round-by-round resultsin a chart, scroll down to the bottom of the page.

2. See how the tally happened: Click the green “show me how it happened” button in the right hand corner to go to the first round of the count, which shows each candidate's share of first choices. Then click on the green arrow on the top right to go through each round of the tally, with the last-place candidate eliminated and their ballots added to the candidate ranked next by each of their voters.

3. Simulate withdrawal of candidates: Back at the first round screen, you can click on the red elimination icon to the left of each name to see the impact of that candidate not running -- that is, all of that candidate's votes are immediately re-allocated to the candidate ranked next on each ballot. For example, the poll includes several candidates who have withdrawn such as Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Ron Paul. Eliminating them allows you to see the vote shares as if they hadn't been on the ballot. To suimulate

4. Simulate 1-on-1 contests: If you want to see how any two candidates would fare if matched against each other, eliminate other candidates, starting at the top. (Once any candidate goes over 50%, that candidate cannot be eliminated.)


What is Ranked Choice Voting?

Ranked choice voting (RCV) allows voters to rank as many candidates as they want in order of choice. When used to elect a single candidate like a presidential nominee, RCV helps to elect a candidate more reflective of a majority of voters in a single election even when several viable candidates are in the race. That’s because If no candidate receives a majority of first choices, the candidate in last place is eliminated, and those voters have their vote count for their next choice still in the race. Candidates do best when they garner a strong core of first-choice support while also attracting second and even third choice support.


Editor's note: This post originally published on FairVote's website.

Photo Credit: a katz / Shutterstock.com