Third Party Candidates Face a High Hurdle in the Electoral College

The American Enterprise, January 1, 1996.


In the century and a half since the emergence of our current two-party system the United States has avoided any crisis in selecting a new president and vice-president–in part because the electoral college amplifies the margin of victory in the popular vote. This amplification gives us a clear winner even when the popular vote is close enough to be called a “photo-finish.” John Kennedy, for example, won only one-third of a percent more popular votes than Richard Nixon in 1960, but collected 38 percent more electoral votes. Bill Clinton, who garnered just 43 percent of the popular vote in 1992’s three-way race, captured nearly 70 percent of the electoral college.

American Enterprise Institute [pdf]