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In elections, majority doesn't always rule

Taking an online survey is a lot like voting for a presidential candidate. You answer a list of questions about policy changes, check off who would be the best fit for the White House and, most of the time, the winner is the one with the most votes. Most of the time doesn't mean all of the time, however.

When it comes to paid surveys, the majority virtually always rules. Businesses have an obligation to please the most consumers possible and they do that by producing the most popular product using thousands of survey responses. It makes sense to side with the majority of respondents because those answers often reflect what choice will lead to the highest number of sales.

When politicians and the law get involved, things get a little more complicated. The popular vote hasn't always decided the winner of the presidential election.

It's all about electoral votes
You may have watched election coverage before. Most news channels will have two counts at the bottom of the screen: one that shows popular vote info and one that shows electoral college vote info. The electoral college vote totals decide the winner. Each state has a particular number of electoral college votes, but those votes are often all awarded to the candidate that won a plurality of popular votes in the state. If a candidate barely won the popular vote in Texas, all 38 of that state's electoral college votes go to that candidate, even if they won only by one or two votes.

What's more, the number of electoral votes a state has isn't necessarily decided by population, meaning a citizen's vote in one state could be more influential than the another citizen's in a different state.

When in history has the popular vote lost?
Most people may remember the 2000 election when George W. Bush received the greatest amount of electoral college votes but Al Gore won the popular vote. However, this isn't the only time the majority of national voters didn't decide who would go to the White House.

The first time the popular vote failed was in 1824 when Andrew Jackson won the majority of votes and more electoral college votes than the other candidates. However, he didn't receive the minimum number of electoral college votes to become president. The choice went to the House of Representatives who voted to bring John Quincy Adams to the White House.

Just over 50 years later, Samuel Tilden won the popular vote in 1876. However, he was one electoral college vote shy of victory. Rutherford B. Hayes took the presidency with 185 electoral votes compared to Tilden's 184.

The last example shows the huge disparity between electoral votes and popular votes. In 1888, Grover Cleveland won the popular vote but was squashed in the electoral college. Cleveland only captured 168 electoral votes compared to Benjamin Harrison's 233.


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