Two people fill in a map of the U.S. that is color-coded by Electoral College results.
(Byambasuren Byamba-Ochir/AFP via Getty Images)

The Electoral College has played an outsize role in several recent U.S. elections, and a majority of Americans would welcome a change to the way presidents are elected.

How we did this

In both 2000 and 2016, the winners of the popular vote lost their bids for the U.S. presidency after receiving fewer votes in the Electoral College than their opponents. To continue tracking how the public views the U.S. system for presidential elections, we surveyed 6,174 U.S. adults from June 27 to July 4, 2022. Everyone who took part is a member of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.

Here are the questions used for this analysis, along with responses, and its methodology.

A line graph showing that support for electing presidents by popular vote has been fairly steady over the last two decades

Around six-in-ten U.S. adults (63%) say the way the president is elected should be changed so that the winner of the popular vote nationwide wins the presidency, while 35% favor keeping the current Electoral College system, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted June 27-July 4, 2022. There has been a modest increase in the share of Americans who favor changing the way presidents are elected: In January 2021, the last time the Center asked this question, 55% said the system should be changed, while 43% supported maintaining the existing system.

The current electoral system in the United States allows for the possibility that the winner of the popular vote may not be able to secure enough Electoral College votes to win the presidency. This was the case in both the 2000 and 2016 elections, which were won by George W. Bush and Donald Trump, respectively.

A bar chart showing that Democrats and Republicans differ over whether to replace the Electoral College with the popular vote

As in past years, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are far more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to support moving to a popular vote system (80% vs. 42%). The share of Democrats saying this is up 9 percentage points from January 2021, but about on par with views in 2020. While a majority of Republicans (56%) continue to say the current Electoral College system should be maintained, the share who now express support for moving to a popular vote system is the highest it’s been since the 2016 election: 42% say this today, up from 37% in 2021 and just 27% in the immediate wake of the 2016 election.

Liberal Democrats are especially likely to say they would prefer changing the system to be based on the popular vote (87% say this). By contrast, conservative Republicans are particularly likely to prefer keeping the current system where the winner of the Electoral College vote takes office (66% say this).

Younger adults are somewhat more supportive of changing the system than older adults: Seven-in-ten Americans ages 18 to 29 support changing the system, compared with 56% of those 65 or older.

A chart showing that attentive partisans are the most deeply divided over replacing Electoral College

And partisan divides in views of the Electoral College are most pronounced among those who pay the most attention to politics. Among partisans who say they follow what is going on in government and public affairs “most of the time,” 85% of Democrats – but only 24% of Republicans – say they favor changing the system. For those who say they follow politics “only now and then” or “hardly at all,” there is a much smaller partisan gap, with 74% of Democrats and 59% of Republicans saying they favor changing the system.

Note: This is an update of a post originally published on Jan. 27, 2021, written by Bradley Jones, a former senior researcher at the Center. Here are the questions used for this analysis, along with responses, and its methodology.

A note on question wording

In January 2020, Pew Research Center ran a survey experiment in which this question was asked in two slightly different ways. One used the language that had been used in 2000 and in subsequent years, with the reform option asking about “amending the Constitution so the candidate who receives the most votes nationwide wins the election.” The other modified the reform option to “changing the system so the candidate who receives the most votes nationwide wins the election.” The January 2020 survey revealed no substantive differences between asking about “amending the Constitution” and “changing the system.”

We conducted this experiment in large part because reforming the way presidents are selected does not technically require amending the Constitution. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, for example, theoretically could accomplish the same end without the need for a constitutional amendment. Since there was no substantive difference in the survey results between the two question wordings, we have adopted the revised wording.

Rebecca Salzer  is a former intern at Pew Research Center.
Jocelyn Kiley  is an associate director of research at Pew Research Center.