Inversions in US Presidential Elections: 1836-2016

87 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2019 Last revised: 6 Oct 2020

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 four US presidential races. We show that rather than being statistical flukes, inversions have been ex ante likely since the early 1800s. In elections yielding a popular vote margin within one point (one-eighth of presidential elections), about 40% will be inversions in expectation. We show this conditional probability is remarkably stable across historical periods—despite differences in which groups voted, which states existed, and which parties participated. Our findings imply that the US has experienced so few inversions merely because there have been so few elections (and fewer 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 )

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Dean Spears

University of Texas at Austin ( email )

Austin, TX 78712
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Economics and Planning Unit, ISI-Delhi ( email )

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r.i.c.e.

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

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Ishaana Talesara

University of Texas at Austin ( email )

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Austin, TX 78712
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