Inversions in US Presidential Elections: 1836-2016

52 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2019

See all articles by Michael Geruso

Michael Geruso

University of Texas at Austin; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Dean Spears

University of Texas at Austin; Economics and Planning Unit, ISI-Delhi; r.i.c.e.; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Ishaana Talesara

University of Texas at Austin

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 6, 2019

Abstract

Inversions — in which the popular vote winner loses the election — have occurred in 4 US Presidential elections. We show that rather than being statistical flukes, inversions have been ex ante likely since the 1800s. In elections yielding a popular vote margin within one percentage point (which has happened in one-eighth of Presidential elections), 40% will be inversions in expectation. Inversion probabilities are asymmetric, in various periods favoring Whigs, Democrats, or Republicans. Feasible policy changes — including awarding each state’s Electoral College ballots proportionally between parties rather than awarding all to the state winner — could substantially reduce inversion probabilities, though not in close elections.

Keywords: Electoral College, Inversion, Wrong Winner, Referendum Paradox, Majority Deficit, National Popular Vote

JEL Classification: H0, J1, K16

Suggested Citation

Geruso, Michael and Spears, Dean and Talesara, Ishaana, Inversions in US Presidential Elections: 1836-2016 (September 6, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3450568 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3450568

Michael Geruso (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin ( email )

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Dean Spears

University of Texas at Austin ( email )

Austin, TX 78712
United States

Economics and Planning Unit, ISI-Delhi ( email )

7 S .J. S.
Sansanwal Marg
New Delhi, 110016
India

r.i.c.e.

New Delhi
India

HOME PAGE: http://www.riceinstitute.org

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Ishaana Talesara

University of Texas at Austin ( email )

2317 Speedway
Austin, TX 78712
United States

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