Has Hillary Clinton really won the popular vote?

In case you didn’t notice, there was a US presidential election earlier this week, and Donald Trump has unexpectedly won the race.

While the counting has not finished it has been reported that Clinton, while lose the Electoral College votes, is actually likely to win the popular votes by 1.7% margin (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hillary-clinton-popular-vote-victory_us_5827a2c5e4b02d21bbc91bbc). The answer to the question in the title of this article seems clear. Except it is no.

The key is third party. Clinton is only having a lead of 1.7%, but the third party candidates (yes, there are more than two candidates in US presidential election – look at the picture below) have a vote share around 4% (http://fivethirtyeight.com/liv… ). If you want a popular vote system, you will likely to have elections in several rounds, like French presidential election. To explain this more clearly, let’s consider a more simple version: 2012 Olympics host city election (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…):

2012 Host City Election – ballot results
City NOC Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4
London  Great Britain 22 27 39 54
Paris  France 21 25 33 50
Madrid  Spain 20 32 31
New York City  United States 19 16
Moscow  Russia 15

Note in round 2 London was behind Madrid but once New York was removed London was top again. So it is essential that in a system where the outcome was decided by popular votes, several rounds are required to ensure the final selected one has genuine majority. Back to this US election, of course, it is hard to know how the third party voters would vote if the they can only choose between the two top candidates in an imaginary final round of voting.


Then there is another issue. A candidate can only choose their strategy based on the election rules. If the rule was popular vote, their strategy may be totally different. They may focus on their big stronghold states instead of smaller “swing states”. Clinton never visited Wisconsin during campaign, which costs her dearly. Trump know the election rules well (as well as tax rules… ) and understand where to spend his time, energy, and money, which ultimately lead to victory.

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