Inversions in US Presidential Elections: 1836-2016
Inversions—in which the popular vote winner loses the election—have occurred in four US presidential races. We show that rather than being statistical flukes, inversions have been ex ante likely since the early 1800s. In elections yielding a popular vote margin within one point (one-eighth of presidential elections), about 40% will be inversions in expectation. We show this conditional probability is remarkably stable across historical periods—despite differences in which groups voted, which states existed, and which parties participated. Our findings imply that the US has experienced so few inversions merely because there have been so few elections (and fewer close elections).
This project is supported by the University of Texas Electoral College Study (utecs.org). The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Dean Spears, while on leave without pay from UT-Austin, is paid a salary as Executive Director of r.i.c.e., a doing business as name of RICE Institute, Inc, a 501(c) public charity non-profit corporation online at www.riceinstitute.org. Since its initial operations in 2013, r.i.c.e. has received grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, from the TRAction project of USAID, from the NIH, and from IGC – all with Dean Spears as a PI or co-PI.
Separately from r.i.c.e., Dean Spears has personally been paid as a Short Term Consultant at the World Bank, as a consultant for IPFRI, and as a short-term Visiting Fellow and Lecturer at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. He has had travel funded by the Gates Foundation, the World Bank, the Royal Economic Society, and by many universities for a conference or presentation. He was paid an honorarium by McMaster University as the 2017 Labelle Lecturer in Health Economics. His AIIS book prize paid a subvention to Harper Collins for his book Where India Goes with Diane Coffey, for which Spears and Coffey waived royalties. His Austin Robinson Memorial Prize resulted in a prize payment to r.i.c.e.
Spears attests that no party had the right to review the paper prior to its circulation.