By Robert A. Vella
Does public opinion determine which presidential candidate will win their party nomination and go on to win the general election?
No, public opinion appears to play only a minor role in determining which candidate will win their party nomination and possibly go on to win the general election for president. Here are the main reasons for America’s undemocratic democracy:
- The de facto two-party system in the U.S. allows the Democratic and Republican parties to dominate the rules governing how the primary election process is run in the states, and how each party selects its eventual nominee. For example, see: The undemocratic Democratic Party: Why I can’t vote in this year’s Presidential Primary.
- Since voter turnout in the U.S. is relatively low compared with other western democracies, and has been declining in recent decades and years, the opinions of the general populace and the opinions of actual voters are quite distinct and often very different.
- Public opinion of each candidate is not necessarily indicative of which candidate voters will choose. Even if a candidate’s policy positions are widely disliked, that doesn’t mean people won’t vote for him or her – and vice versa. See: How Do People Choose Their Political Leaders?
As of today, here is how the 2016 presidential election race stands:
Presidential Candidates’ Favorable/Unfavorable Rating versus Current Delegate Count
as of March 31, 2016
Favorable/Unfavorable ratings cited from Real Clear Politics‘ rolling average of national polls which generally categorize results by Total Respondents, Eligible Voters, and Registered Voters.
Total delegates needed to win the Republican Party nomination = 1237.
Total delegates needed to win the Democratic Party nomination = 2383.
Marco Rubio amassed 171 Republican Party delegates before suspending his campaign.
Here’s the same data sorted by Net Favorable/Unfavorable Rating:
We can see that if public opinion was determinative in the current race for president, the party nominees facing off in November would be Republican John Kasich versus Democrat Bernie Sanders. But, the leading candidates and likely party nominees – barring extraordinary intervening events – are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton who both have very high negative perceptions of them.
Un-democracy, it’s all on you America.